Those long hours spent in the library are about to become a
little easier, library administrator say.

The library will update the Michigan Research Library Network,
which is based on software developed 20 years ago at Northwestern
University, on July 6.

“Researchers will have a much more powerful search
capability, and the interface will make it easier for students to
use,” said Barbara MacAdam, head of Reference and Instruction
at the University Library. “It will still be called MIRLYN,
but we will make it clear that it’s a new and dramatically
improved MIRLYN.”

The new MIRLYN will enable students and researchers to do one
search across multiple databases at the same time, said MacAdam,
chair of the steering committee implementing the new system. Users
can then sort and limit the search based on criteria such as date,
language, library and journal name. It will no longer be necessary
to search through individual databases for an article.

MacAdam said that the new MIRLYN should be more helpful for
students. “I think students will find MIRLYN easier to use
because it will be more user-friendly and more powerful. This will
allow students to use a much wider content for scholarly work and
their papers,” MacAdam said.

At the same time, the new program will still have all of the
services and features that the current MIRLYN has, such as ability
to access course reserves, put a book on hold or order a book from
another location. But it will have more power and flexibility,
MacAdam added.

The University must change MIRLYN because the old software
— NOTIS — is no longer being updated, and a better
system is expected at such a large research university, MacAdam
said.

Many students said the current MIRLYN is difficult to use, and
that it could be greatly improved.

“I think it’s kind of confusing when you get to the
first page to know where you’re supposed to go. If I
hadn’t taken research classes, I wouldn’t know where to
go for things like PsycINFO,” LSA senior Payal Patel said,
referring to one of the library’s databases.

One of the biggest complaints of students is the difficulty of
searching for articles through all of the separate databases.
“It’s so hard to use. It’s hard to find things if
you want journal articles as opposed to books,” LSA senior
Mike Levy said.

The Implementation Steering Committee which will set up the new
MIRLYN hopes to solve these problems with the new software.

Additionally, such a large research university needs a system
that will allow researchers to do more complex searches, MacAdam
said.

“One of the most important improvements for scholarly
research is the ability to display records in the vernacular of
more than 20 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic
and Korean,” she said.

The Implementation Steering Committee has been working for two
years to select an appropriate system. They signed a contract with
vendor Ex Libris in 2002 to adopt the same system that is used at
large research institutions such as Harvard University, the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of
California, she said.

The Implementation Steering Committee also wants to make the
transition as easy as possible for students and researchers,
MacAdam said.

“The switch to production date is July 6, 2004. The date
was picked very consciously because it’s a time of relative
peace on campus, so if anything unexpected occurs we will have time
to deal with it well before fall,” MacAdam said.
“We’re going to teach classes on the new MIRLYN,
provide handouts and online help through our chat reference service
‘Ask Us Now.’ ”

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