UT College Catalogs Digital Project Receives Award

Digital course catalogs help university to better serve students

A recent yearlong collaboration among the Office of the University Registrar, the University of Tennessee Libraries and the Office of Creative Services made an essential publication for the UT community easily accessible, and has yielded a notable campus accolade – the UT Employee Team Excellence Award.

“Providing this service to our users is yet another way we strive to carry out our Service Philosophy – ‘providing the highest quality service to all patrons, and equitable access to information in print and electronic resources,’” Barbara Dewey, Dean of University Libraries, said. “This award is truly an honor to our team members and our libraries.”

The project to digitize the UT undergraduate and graduate college catalogs began in mid-2003 and took a year to complete, from the first steps of determining the ownership of the catalogs to the final posting of the documents. The key aspect of the project was devising a method of converting existing catalogs into PDFs, which can be viewed online with Adobe Acrobat Reader. Now, all users of the catalog can access any undergraduate or graduate catalog from 1994 to the present. The team plans to digitize all catalogs published and is currently in the process of doing so.

According to Arwen Hutt, metadata librarian at University Libraries, this project was identified as a timely, practical function. There was a pressing deadline to get the materials online, and she says the feature is “not fancy,” but a large amount of material was placed online quickly and efficiently. One useful component of the technology is optical character recognition (OCR), which allows users to scan for specific words within a large PDF. Another helpful element is the “breaking up” of the large PDFs into smaller sections.

College catalogs serve as an important point of reference for past, current and future students; advisers; staff in the Registrar’s Office; Reference librarians and the University archivist. These catalogs are the key to fulfilling major requirements, whether to find substitutions or to define the next steps for the semester. According to statistics from the Digital Library Center, the catalogs have received more than 100,000 hits between January and April 2005, indicating the popularity of this service.

“We’re excited that something worthwhile for our users and a perfect example of what collaboration really is has been recognized,” Linda Phillips, head of Collection Development and Management, said. “All parties had a similar vision and mission, so everything just came together.”

The UT Team Excellence Award is given to employees who have worked together to achieve outstanding performance and results. One award is given in the spring and one in the fall. Chancellor Loren Crabtree gave this semester’s awards on Friday, May 13, 2005 at the Employee Team Excellence Award Breakfast.