Columbia and CU Press Put Reference Works On-Line

Photograph: Elaine Sloan, vice president for information services and University librarian; Vace Kundakci, deputy vice president, AcIS; James Raimes, director of the reference division of Columbia University Press, and John D, Moore, director and president of the Press, met recently to sign an agreement between the Press and the University. Photo Credit: Joe Pineiro.

A first-of-its-kind agreement between Columbia and Columbia University Press has been made to create a "digital library" of on-line texts.

John D. Moore, director and president of CU Press, and Elaine Sloan, vice president for information services and University librarian, have announced an agreement which outlines a synergistic relationship in which Columbia's Academic Information Systems (AcIS), headed by Vace Kundakci, deputy vice president, will develop and maintain electronic transmission capability for six reference titles owned and published by the Press.

According to Peter Grenquist, chairman of the American Association of University Presses, "this is a pioneering agreement between two major players in the scholarly world. It can prove to be a model for other university-centered strategic alliances."

The titles included in the agreement are The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, The Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, The Columbia World of Quotations, The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry, The Columbia Chronicles of American Life 1910-1992, and The Columbia Guide to Standard American Usage.

The Press' Reference Division, headed by James Raimes, created the titles and is responsible for their content.

AcIS is providing transmission capabilities for the titles on CLIO Plus, the library information system of ColumbiaNet, an Internet information delivery system that is available not only to Columbians, but also to other institutions to which the Press sells the titles.

AcIS will control user access, oversee the downloading of texts and screens, and incorporate updates and corrections provided by the Press.

"Samuel Johnson said lexicography was harmless drudgery," Raimes said, "and until recently most people would have said the same about reference publishing. But here we are adapting some of the best reference resources in the English language to offer a potentially enormous audience the ability to find a correct date or person or place or poem or quotation in seconds with a few keystrokes. It's really exciting."

The agreement represents a major commitment to and expansion of an electronic publishing relationship between Columbia and the Press that began in 1990 when AcIS provided on-line access and monthly updating of The Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia on ColumbiaNet.

Moore said, "Our enlarged agreement and cooperation with Columbia's libraries sets the pattern for a new style of cooperation between universities and their presses, one we believe will enhance the publishing of works of authority and scholarship. We think this is only the beginning."

Sloan said, "Our usefulness as a library will be significantly improved by providing on-line access to the Press's leading reference tools. It's a relationship that makes perfect sense for both parties."

Both the Press and the University have independently taken ground-breaking steps in electronic publishing.

Columbia University Press was one of the first university presses to publish a CD-ROM with the 1991 publication of The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry on CD-ROM, which will be significantly updated and expanded in a second release next month.

With several other major projects under development, the Press is one of the few scholarly presses with a significant electronic publishing program.

Columbia University Record -- February 24, 1995 -- Vol. 20, No. 18