Beinecke eliminates paper slips

Over three weeks after the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library eliminated paper call slips in favor of a electronic request system, administrators are hailing the change as having made the research process more efficient.

Since Oct. 3, students and faculty members researching in the Beinecke have been using Aeon — an online registration, request and transaction tracking system — instead of paper call slips, which the library has used since it opened in 1963. Moira Fitzgerald, assistant head of access services at Beinecke, said the change has garnered positive reactions from researchers.

Fitzgerald said that the Beinecke decided to move to the online tracking system, which was designed specifically for special collections and archives, to increase convenience for patrons, security of collections and centralization of registration.

“We were excited to see a product that was designed specifically for special collections researchers and staff,” she said, adding that the Beinecke has processed over 3,000 requests since it started using Aeon.

The system is also expanding outside of the Beinecke’s collections. The Department of Manuscripts and Archives at Sterling Memorial Library had already switched to Aeon for registration in July 2010, but it will also begin using the system for requesting materials in about a month, said Kevin L. Glick, head of digital information systems and university archives at Manuscripts and Archives.

Previously, users who registered at Manuscripts and Archives had to register again to use the Beinecke, but now registering at one location covers both units, Fitzgerald said.

“One reason we wanted Aeon was the ability for all special collections units at Yale to use the same system for registration and requesting,” Fitzgerald said.

Besides the Beinecke and Manuscripts and Archives, Yale’s special collections also include those in the Arts and Divinity libraries.

In addition to making research more convenient for patrons, the new system allows the Beinecke’s staff to process requests more efficiently and provides them with more control over the collection, Fitzgerald said. Aeon gives staff the ability to see who has used viewed items, which enhances security, she said.

The Beinecke first considered a switch to Aeon in 2007, but at the time its employees felt the product was not yet developed enough for their needs, Fitzgerald said. Over the past few years, several peer special collection libraries, such as the Houghton Library at Harvard, adopted it, Fitzgerald said, which prompted former University Librarian and Beinecke library head Frank Turner GRD ’71 to approve of the change from paper call slips to Aeon shortly before his death in November 2010. She added that Edwin C. Schroeder, who was appointed director of the Beinecke Library in January, strongly supported the decision.

Fitzgerald said most people have transitioned smoothly, but “very few” researchers are not yet comfortable with technology and require extra assistance. The Beinecke staff participated in intensive training sessions throughout the summer, she said.

Morgan Herrell ’13, who works at Manuscripts and Archives and uses Aeon to help patrons, she did not find the system hard to learn and called it “pretty simple and intuitive.” Elif Erez ’15, who works at the Beinecke, said Aeon has made parts of her job easier.

“It helps with reshelving because we can just scan the books,” she said. “Previously, with the paper slips, we had to see if it was on the shelf.”

All eight students interviewed who do not work in the Yale Library system said they had not yet used Aeon but added that they approved of the change to an electronic system. Clare Kane ’14 said the idea of the new system seems more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Aeon is produced by Atlas Systems, a software development company headquartered in Virginia Beach, Va.

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