We went through the bleeding edge," says Linda Bennett G'80, executive director of Development Information Services, of implementing the University's first major client-server system. Made by BSR of Waltham, Massachusetts, the system became active in 1997. It was still under development when SU bought it and became the third client to bring it online. Now the BSR system is used by approximately 80 colleges and universities, including UCLA, Brown, and Dartmouth. "They call us pioneers when we go to conferences," Bennett says.
The system's database includes all SU alumni and such benefactors as parents, friends, organizations, corporations, and educational foundations. "BSR has the same information the old mainframe system had, and a lot more," Bennett says. "We store gift and academic information, colleges from which degrees are earned, student affiliations, awards, and honors. We can track that information much more easily."
The system is an invaluable tool for development and alumni relations staff. "It gets rid of a lot of paper and old data," Bennett says. "We're sharing more information than ever before." Another benefit is 24-hour operation; the old system shut down at about 6 p.m. and wasn't available on weekends. "It's really much more user-based," she says. "We decide how we want to define and store data, and we write our own retrievals and reports in-house. That's flexibility we've never had."
Two new components will be implemented within the next year: BSR's advanced client-server web access, which allows reports to be generated online, and the company's events management subsystem, which can be used for events like Reunion. Even more capabilities await future upgrades. "Right now the system is very large and complex," Bennett says. "It's going to take some time for us to exploit the full potential. There's so much capability therethe challenge is to not get caught up in all the features and try to use every single field or data element."
Next online was the library's client-server system. Made by Endeavor Information Systems of Des Plaines, Illinois, and sold under the name Voyager, the system is called Summit at SU, after the mainframe system it replaced. Both the old and new systems offer a full suite of library applications, allowing staff to order, catalog, and circulate material, says Randall Ericson, associate University librarian for technical and automated services. "The new system is Windows- and web-based, so there's a graphical presentation of information in Summit," he says. "It allows us to tailor the system more to our own specifications."
The system, which can be accessed at libwww.syr.edu/summit.htm, features a much more powerful searching capability than the old Summit. "It has a relevancy-based search engine," Ericson says. "When you do a keyword search, it will weigh the results and, hopefully, the items most relevant to your query will be returned first." Another improvement is the direct link from catalog records to electronic resources, he says. "As we move into providing more and more digital information, this kind of linkage becomes more important. It provides the opportunity for a user to find not only the citation of what the library has, but also the actual text or data itself, by clicking on the linked resource."
One of the most significant changes, Ericson says, is the dramatic increase in the number of available databases. Under the old system, the library offered access to about 25 commercial databases, such as Search Bank and the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. The new Summit links to more than 400. "It has opened up much wider access to information through a single mechanism," he says.