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George A. Smathers Libraries History

Electronic Era, 1984 - 2003


   Max Willocks served as Interim Director for two years (1984-85) until Dale Canelas was appointed Director (1985-2007). John Ingram will serve as Interim Director (2007+). The latter half of the 1980s was a time during which the online catalog was inaugurated (soon to evolve into a complex set of databases and electronic resources), CD-ROM databases (which were short lived and soon replaced by Internet databases), the construction of a new centralized science library, renovation of Library East (Smathers Library), and the renovation and expansion of Library West. Electronic resources (e-indexes, e-journals, e-books, databases and the Internet), library organizational changes, and library construction would dominate the following decades.

    LUIS (Library Users Information Service - the library?s online catalog) appeared on dumb OPAC terminals (Online Public Access Catalog monitors using monochrome text only) throughout the libraries during 1986-87. It was one of the first uses of the NOTIS management system software and was supported by the newly created Florida Center for Library Automation (FCLA) for use at all the State university libraries. This modest electronic beginning was soon supplemented with other databases made available on CD-ROMs, which were run on PC computers. This new CD-ROM capability allowed users to search the literature themselves and thus replaced the fee based searches that characterized the 1970s and early 1980s.

    After a long history of science branch libraries, the Central Science Library was open with full service in March 1987, combining the agriculture, chemistry, engineering, physics and astronomy libraries (as well as the science collections remaining in Libraries East and West, such as mathematics and geology). It was dedicated on 3 March 1989 and named Marston Science Library in honor of Robert Q. Marston, seventh President of the University (1974-84). This prompted a reorganization of the Library West staff, creating the Humanities and Social Sciences Reference Department and the Collection Management Department. This latter development was a follow-up to the creation of a collection management program in 1985, whereby the librarians took over the materials budget for their subject areas from the academic faculty. Thus the librarians became subject specialists (selectors) reporting to bibliographers (one each for the Humanities, the Social Sciences and the Sciences) and were responsible for acquiring and managing the books, journals, microforms, and electronic resources.

    Further organizational development of the Libraries occurred with the establishement of the Personnel Office in 1985, the Business Office in 1986, the beginning of the Development Office in 1987 (informally at first as a fund raising and public relations effort - a formal Office was not established until the late 1990s), the Collection Management Department in 1987, and the Facilities Management Office in 1990.

    Library East received a $2 million gift from George A. Smathers in 1989, which lead to renovation of Library East during 1994-1998. In addition, Special Collections and Technical Services moved into Library East from Library West. The Map Library had already moved to the Marston Science Library. This gift, however, would be followed by an even larger $20 million gift from Smathers to the Libraries in 1991, the largest gift received by the University up to that time. In recognition of this gift, the Libraries were named in the former Senator?s honor as the George A. Smathers Libraries. In 1993 the Libraries added their three millionth volume.

    CD-ROMs would have a short existence as library databases. As early as 1988, the Libraries (along with 41 other Land Grant Universities) participated in a National Agricultural Library Text Digitizing Project. In 1993, the Libraries acquired 17 e-journals (e-books would be acquired in 2001) and during the early 1990s several other electronic resources were offered in addition to the online catalog. This was also the time during which the Internet was developing and in 1997-98 LUIS switched to an Internet based WebLUIS system. Electronic resources, including e-journals and e-books were made available online through the Internet and CD-ROMs were no longer used for library services.

    With the dawn of the new century, the Digital Library was inaugurated in 2000, as was the PALMM (Publication of Archival, Library and Museum Materials) project. While the Digital Library was UF based, the PALMM project was a cooperative digital venture to support individual or cooperative initiatives among all the Florida university libraries and to digitize important special collections throughout the university system (however, the UF contributions to PALMM are being incorporated back into the Digital Library in 2006). A GIS (Geographic Information Systems) librarian was also added in 2000 due to the widespread use of this computer technology in academic programs in many subject areas. In Spring 2000 a pilot project for providing online reference service was launched and in February 2001 RefeXpress was introduced through WebLUIS.

    As the university sesquicentennial (and that of the libraries as well - 2003) approached, the library holdings reached four million volumes, the WebLUIS/NOTIS catalog/electronic resources system was replaced by the Exlibris/Aleph library management system, and planning got underway for an addition to Library West.

History by Vernon N. Kisling, Jr.

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