Emory's Virtual Library: Under Construction

An Emory College philosophy major sits at a computer in her dorm room and logs on to LearnLink, a campuswide, electronic communication network that provides a variety of forums in which students and professors can "discuss" topics pertinent to their classes. First, she turns in an electronic version of a term paper by "uploading" it to her ethics class file. Then she composes a question to her professor about the current reading assignment on Immanuel Kant. Several hours later, she goes back to the computer and finds her professor's reply. Questions from other students, along with responses, also appear.

Learnlink, used as a teaching aid in a variety of academic disciplines at Emory, is one example of how the University's information technology network has rapidly matured into a sophisticated campus resource.The project was included in a recent exhibit in the Schatten Gallery of the Robert W. Woodruff Library, "Virtual Library: Under Construction," which explored the range and depth of Emory's contributions to "cyberspace." Other projects featured in the exhibit incorporate text, photography, art, video, and sound to meet teaching and research needs.

Some instructors create on-line resources tailored to the specific interests of their classes. Associate Professor of History Michael Bellesiles converted hard-to-find primary source documents into digital texts for his courses in American constitutional law. Bellesiles is now in the process of digitizing more than four hundred documents in American history. In a similar effort, Associate Professor of English Harry Rusche has created a host of on-line, electronic texts and graphics customized for his courses. His Shakespeare Illustrated is a colorful directory of paintings of images from the Bard's plays. Professor Kyle Petersen of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the School of Medicine produced an on-line laboratory manual for cell biology and histology by converting more than six hundred color transparencies to electronic form and adding text and sound files.

Researchers on and off campus will be coming to Emory's Woodruff Library to use electronically stored archival collections. The Sam Nunn Archives in the Special Collections of the Woodruff Library will soon be available via touch-screen and compact disc technology. The project contains text, still photographs, moving images, and sound. Special Collections plans to make other Emory archival materials available through national on-line systems.

Some rare manuscripts and historic texts from other libraries are already available in digital formats in the Lewis H. Beck Center for Electronic Texts and Services in the Woodruff Library. Among the collections are more than one hundred medieval Spanish texts held in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. These texts can be viewed at Emory either in the original medieval script or in a modern transcription.

Emory's site on the World Wide Web, an aspect of the Internet that features text, graphics, sound, and video, was "visited" more than a million times in September 1995, up from a mere 23,000 times in May 1994. Among the most popular locations in Emory's Web pages are the Michael C. Carlos Museum, which offers a "virtual tour" of its galleries, and the Carter Center, which provides information to people around the world about the center's international programs. Emory's Web site also includes admission materials; campus publications; and information about the University's schools, libraries, and research centers. A video tour of the new Goizueta Business School building now under construction is available on the Web. And the School of Law's pages are home to all published decisions handed down by the Fourth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals.

Emory's most ambitious effort in information technology is the development of a prototype "virtual library," which was begun in 1993. Plans for the virtual library include a network providing access to a wide range of information resources--from paper and microform to laser disc and magnetic tape--housed in libraries around the world. Eventually, library users everywhere will have access to thousands of collections via Emory's virtual library.

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