DUKE ITAC - October 28, 2004 Minutes


October 28, 2004

Members present:Ed Anapol, Pakis Bessias, John Board, Robert Byrd, Paul Conway, Angel Dronsfield, Nevin Fouts, Tracy Futhey, Chris Gelphi, Michael Gettes, Guven Guzeldere, Craig Henriquez, Billy Herndon, Eileen Kuo, Scott Lindroth, Greg McCarthy, Melissa Mills represented by Forrest Smith, Kyle Johnson, Lynne O'Brien represented by Jim Coble, George Oberlander, Mike Pickett, Rafael Rodriquez, Scott Smith, Dalene Stangl, Molly Tamarkin, Robert Wolpert, Steve Woody

Guests present: Dan McCarriar, OIT; Linda Martinez, Vesic Library; Phil Lemmons, News & Communications; David Tremmel; Hannah Arps; Jess Mitchell, OIT; Sarah Roberts, OIT; Heather Flanagan, OIT; Richard Riddell, Theater Studies

Start time: 4:09 pm

I. Minutes and announcements

Tracy Futhey says that last week was Educause. Many people attended, and CIT did a well-received presentation. Ginny Cake was part of panel presentation about music and video and talked about educational content on iPods. There was much interest in the iPod project from other places.

II. Ex Libris Library system status and feedback from users

Paul Conway, Linda Martinez

Paul Conway says that the new Ex Libris system replaced 2 barely compatible systems, several stand-alone databases, limited search and discovery tools, and compartmented access to digital resources. The system was switched on July 24, 2004 at 7:35pm. A new website, rebuilt from the ground up, is now available to users.

The redesign was about a year and a half process. The system was architectured to be ready for a CMS that isn't yet built. The Web site itself is highly structured and color/graphic coded. It focuses on three major areas: research, services, and organization. It also has a dynamic database-driven homepage.

Ex Libris has brought library staff fully integrated tech services tools, a reserves management system (now under an authentication system), and sophisticated circulation controls. There is a new catalogue interface, tools for finding articles and content within databases, and content-linking software (sfx). The Web site design Uses tabs at the top of the page, and this feature is very popular with users. Users can search by library, conferences, etc, and it also has more sophisticated advanced search tools. The current question is how to make users aware of it.

The site also features Metalib, a tool for finding and getting information and accessing abstract and indexing services. One interface has a Google-like search. This version of Metalib is a little clunky, so we're updating November 9 to a newer version that will allow us to construct thetools for end users as we see fit.

The system has ways to personalize searches, like "My eShelf" (allows user to save commonly used resources, all new features), "My Account," etc. Italso has a complex interface that is challenging to get users used to, butis a very powerful tool. The search tool allows simultaneous searching,but can only search up to 8 resources at a time. No search tool exists that can do real meta-searching.

This project involved a huge investment of time between the library and other departments. The project had a core group of 6 individuals and several other teams adding up to an additional 50 people. There couldn't be enough review and training, and it is still going on. We are all relatively exhausted and ready to stabilize the system. We couldn't have done it without James Allen (SAP-R/3), Sue Jarrell (SISS), Steve Lemons(LDAP), and Carl Ross (OIT).

Lessons learned: if you stick to a deadline, you're going to have to make compromises; the five libraries in the Duke system can work together when it really matters; vendor relationships really matter; staff training could have been better (we waited to long to get started); and managing expectations is important because enthusiasm is raised at the beginning of a project, and can be let down at the end.

Linda Martinez says that in getting ready for this presentation she sent an email to get feedback from people. One complaint is that you need to log on more than once to get to the customizable features: once onto the catalog, and then back on to the database/journals section. Once users get there, they love it. Users say it takes too many clicks to get where they want to go, probably due to lack of familiarity with the interface. The circulation information display isn't readily apparent. Some of this we can change, some not.

On MetaLib, information can be overwhelming. The response depends on the user, though: the site is more overwhelming for undergrads, but gradstudents and faculty like it. We've been meeting weekly as a group to discuss problems and issues. We respond to feedback where we can.

Pros: people love the ˜get it at Duke" button. Someone said the citation linker is superb, and users like the customizable features, such as being able to create their own e-resources so links won't get moved on you. For students, functions that allow them to see books they checked out, see fines, renew books themselves, etc. are very popular.

We have a lot of education to do, and we are trying to work with students to get them up to speed. We want to do more marketing and training.

George Oberlander asks how exactly the redesign was managed. When you went into the project, did you adopt a specific methodology? Were there things in terms of managing that did or didn't work?

Paul says Ex Libris had their own implementation scheme that partly drove the process; we had put specific benchmarks into the contract we were meeting over time. In terms of organizing ourselves, in the process of selecting Ex Libris we had consultants from peer organizations visit to figure out how to organize ourselves. We learned a lot from them. Also, we had a principle of implementation: we decided to go with many people rather than few, which drove us towards teams and team management. The teams we have in place now are not necessarily the right structure; it's just too big. We also have to figure out how to transition to a maintenance structure.

Robert Wolpert says he's a faculty member, and his experience with the newsite is typical: there are some things he likes, and some things he doesn't know how to do. You should be more complacent, because people still need to get used to the new system.

Linda says that it would be frustrating when she would encounter people who didn't know about the new design, while others worked on it all day. They did education, but uncertainty was a problem. There was a lot of angst because librarians don't want to say they don't know how to do something to users.

Chris Gelpi adds that he thinks it's a good system: I've had to find more stuff for RA's to do, because they do their work faster now. For a lot of faculty, they won't pay attention to new features on the site until they need to use it.

Nevin Fouts asks if there have been alumni interested in services that can be extended to them?

Linda says there are many services open to the public that alumni can certainly use.

III. Email update - Heather Flanagan

Heather says that people ignore email, which is a shame, because so much of it gets sent. About a year ago we had 7 post offices running, outages almost daily, and a bad outage in October 2002 when user data was lost. Since then, we've completely revamped the mail delivery environment to a single post office, which is much more reliable.

From the perspective of mail gateways, in a standard week the system sees 1-1.2 million messages per weekday and 500,000-700,000 emails per weekend. Of messages coming in, all go through a spam filter. 50% of messages that come through have a likelihood of 50% or more of being spam. The number of viruses coming in is only about 10,000-20,000 a day. The new system is proving much more reliable and stable than the old system. While we have had one unplanned outage since we deployed the new system early in 2004, the prior system had experienced outages on a weekly if not a daily basis. We are seeing about 6,000 concurrent connections to the system.There was an artificial peak of 9,000 current connections (because 1 user opened 3,000 connections at once). With the old system, if there were more than 5,000 concurrent connections the system would crash. The improvement is due not to users but to the system infrastructure.

Robert Wolpert asks if there is headroom?

Heather says yes, we could easily have 9k connections without any noticeable difference.

John Board asks if the hardware has growing room?

Heather says yes, definitely.

Heather says that the mail system is divided into three parts: the gateways, the actual post office (central mail system), and the outgoing environment. The post office sees about 825,000 messages coming in a day. We have a large number of mailboxes waiting to go away marked as belonging to users not here anymore. Their NetID's will stay on record, but their actual space eventually will go away.

Tracy Futhey asks if it is true that only 10% of users are blocking spam?

Heather says yes.

Molly Tamarkin says she is always surprised by how many users say they don't know this service exists.

Heather says they still have plans to upgrade storage architecture that will give us better expansion capabilities. We don't know the timeframe yet; it depends on when we can get adequate power in the room. But this is not a big concern, and we have plenty of time to upgrade.

There have been some recent outages with notes, and they are still working with the vendor to figure out what the problem is. They have found a bug, but are not quite satisfied with the fix. The de-bugging software has had minimal effect on this particular problem.

John Board says we were talking about replacing drives. Have we backed off from that entirely?

Heather says the problems we're seeing now are not related to the hardware, so we don't want to change too many variables.

Kyle Johnson asks if there is a schedule set?

Heather says there is no schedule yet since they are dealing with the iNotes issue.

Robert Wolpert asks why unused email accounts have to get queued for removal?

Heather says because if even one belongs to a faculty member on sabbatical, they'd be very unhappy if their email got deleted. So, they are waiting a full semester. They are sending lots of warning emails letting people know their stuff is going away.

IV. National Lambda Rail update - Tracy Futhey

Tracy says Duke is a founding member of this new optical network. It will provide a nationwide backbone, meaning we can easily have the sort of connections one can't easily get right now. Phase 1 connects Seattle, Denver, LA, Chicago, Research Triangle, etc. with 10G/second waves. Currently our university backbone is 2G/sec. The network will start with 4 of these 10G waves and scale up to any point a to any point b. Someone working on brain imaging, for example, could send traffic at very highrates at a dedicated connection so there was no problem of latency.

The project had been in a formative stage for a couple of years; Phase 1 went live in August. Phase 2 will go along the southern U.S., connect in San Diego, and create some rings of redundancy. This will start in the spring. There are already a handful of projects using this resource. Next week is Supercomputing 2004. There will be 9 waves set up very temporarily. It's proving to be an interesting ride. If you want to know more, go to my Educause presentation on it from last week. We still need to talk about how we're going to bring it onto the campus.

John Board adds that the ownership model of the project is also interesting because member institutions own it.

Dan McCarriar adds that this is a service one would have to contract for.

Tracy says yes, one would need to add the cost of provisioning this for many months or years into a grant proposal.

V. Arts Warehouse update - Richard Riddell, Scott Lindroth, et al

Richard says you may have heard that Duke purchased the Smith Warehouse across the railroad tracks from East Campus 2 years ago. They are now renovating one end for of the building for visual arts and music. Visual arts will be moved out of the arts building on east campus into this building. This is a 2 million dollar project, it should be done in February, and students should start having classes there in fall 2005.

Scott says the idea for the warehouse emerged out of courses offered in the art and music department that didn't have adequate facilities in the home department. Many students were interested in having a facility where they could combine an interest in visual arts and music, and this facility will make that possible. The warehouse will have a classroom with 14 workstations dedicated for graphics, visual arts, and music. There will be expensive printers for visual arts projects. In addition, there will be 7 music production studios, hopefully well sound-proofed since the building is near the railroad tracks. We're working with colleagues in the Art Department to make a course that would combine the visual andmusic sides of things. This will be a useful recruitment tool, and will be exciting to the students.

Robert Wolpert asks if there are special networking needs?

Scott says yes, one issue that has come up especially with animation andvideo is that rendering can take hours. They now have software that can send projects over a network to be rendered.

Sarah Roberts adds that as they were reviewing the budget they were able to capitalize on a new bundling of Apple products in which Final Cut is packaged with effects software. This option saved us $4,000, and the Apple rep cut $100 per seat from the cost.

John Board asks how hardware support is for all of this?

Scott says this is a problem; they have insisted throughout the process that they will need a full-time support person.

Mike Pickett says that request was forwarded, and they have budgeted for a full-time media support person.

Mike says the warehouse has made us think about the multimedia support system in general. We've tried to layout a plan for how we can coordinate multimedia efforts rather than running them in parallel.

Tracy Futhey asks whether this will be a lab restricted for certain kindsof use, or will it be available to all-comers?

Scott says initially it will be limited to people taking classes, but we think we'll be able to offer more classes and determine if we need to make it more widely available to make sure it is fully utilized.

Molly asks how much training the faculty needs to take advantage of this equipment?

Scott says the faculty is pretty much leading the effort, requesting software, tools, etc. We're accustomed to installing and troubleshooting media technology ourselves.

VI. Other business


End Time: 5:30