Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 2, 1995

MSEL's Neal Wants Library More Online

Chris Rowett
Homewood News and Information

     Jim Neal is an easy man to read. As the new director of the
university's Eisenhower Library, he has his priorities and goals
clearly in focus; just a few weeks on the job, Neal is determined
to see the library grow with the information age of the '90s.

     "I think Hopkins is poised to make enormous progress and
advance its leadership in the national research library
community," he said. 

     As anyone who has entered a library in the past few years
knows, resources and research have taken on electronic formats, a
move Neal calls a "revolution." The leaders of that revolution
must be able to expand and adapt to change, while continuing to
acknowledge the importance of printed publications, he said.  

     "It's a very schizophrenic information environment that
we're working with, and it will challenge libraries in the next
decade," he said. "How do we effectively continue to acquire a
range of information formats, select those of high quality and of
relevance to the faculty and students of this university,
organize them effectively, make them available, and preserve and
archive them?"

     One response to that challenge is a plan to improve the
network infrastructure at the university. Those improvements,
Neal said, will increase resource availability and result in a
"migration" from the electronic catalog system to a client server

     "When you go to a catalog now, it tells you a publication
exists," he explained. "You have to go to the library stacks or
to government publications and search for it. Increasingly, what
we want to do is not just point at information; we'd like to
bring that information to the computer."

     That technology, he said, will make more resources available
to more students and researchers when and where they need it.

     Hopkins has already made strides in that area, Neal noted.
Under Project Muse, more than 40 scholarly journals published by
the Johns Hopkins University Press are being made available on
the World Wide Web at http// Students and
scholars will have the capability to access research from their
dorms, homes or offices, Neal said.

     "The network is a global community," Neal said. "I'm amazed
how researchers perhaps have more contact with colleagues around
the world than they do with colleagues down the hall. 

     "There is a community of scholars that now can, in fact,
interact internationally in a real-time basis," he added. "You
don't have to wait for the conference in Vienna next year. You
have the ability to jump on line and collaborate."

     The Eisenhower Library is also one of 1,400 research
libraries throughout the country that has been selected by the
U.S. Government Printing Office to have access to a variety of
electronic-based sources, including the GPO Access Database and
Congressionals reports on legislation. 

     Additionally, Neal envisions a time when information will be
available using a variety of networked, interactive, multimedia

     "We have to accept a major commitment in our business lives
and our professional lives to equipment replacement and
upgrading," he said. "[It is] a condition of constantly shifting

     In the electronic age of information, however, printed works
will remain essential tools of education and entertainment. 

     "We'll be publishing books in our lifetime," Neal said.
"There are certain types of literature that clearly lends itself
to that format. We will want to read novels. We want potable
technology like the printed book." 

     Neal, 48, arrived at Hopkins after six years at Indiana
University, where, as dean of university libraries, he
coordinated a system of 57 libraries on eight campuses. Prior to
that, he served as an assistant dean at Penn State and held
library posts at the University of Notre Dame and the City
University of New York.

     At Hopkins, Neal is directly responsible for the Eisenhower
Library, including the Garrett Library at Evergreen House and the
George Peabody Library. The Welch Library, the Friedheim Library
at Peabody Conservatory and the libraries at the Applied Physics
Lab and the School of Public Health are run independently; Neal
expects to work closely to coordinate efforts among the

     On that same note, Neal would also like to develop a
coalition of research libraries in the mid-Atlantic region--
similar to one he worked with in the Midwest--to coordinate a
plan of action in addressing and sharing future challenges and

     "Cooperation gives us the opportunity not only to enhance
the services for our faculty and students, but to pursue them in
a much more cost-effective way," he said. "I'd like the library
to continue to be more and more innovative, to establish

     For now, though, Neal and his wife, Fran, are settling in
Baltimore and anticipating their move into a house later this
month. It is not the only transition on the couple's minds.

     "We came here from Notre Dame, Penn State and Indiana:
football and basketball," Neal said. "We're trying to learn a lot
about lacrosse real fast." They are in just the right place.

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