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Implementing GTO through the LAN at Vanderbilt University

NOTISes [February 1993]

Breeding, Marshall.

Copyright (c) 1993 NOTIS Systems, Inc.


One of the important trends in library computing involves the use of microcomputer workstations rather than terminal equipment for technical services operations. One of the complicating factors in this environment lies in the number of services that must be accessed during the cataloging process. In order for the cataloging process to be effectively managed on a single station, simultaneous access must be available for the local system and to one or more bibliographic utilities with an interactive process for moving records from the bibliographic source to the local system. Further, there should be the ability to use a word processor, spreadsheet, or other software that might be useful to cataloging staff. This article describes the methods used by the Jean and Alexander Library of Vanderbilt University to implement a cataloging workstation that meets these criteria. Vanderbilt uses the NOTIS as its local system and OCLC as its principal bibliographic utility.

NOTIS' Generic Transfer and Overlay product (GTO) was initially designed to work in conjunction with dedicated utility terminals connected with serial cables to a dedicated GTO PC gateway to manage the transfer of records into a library's bibliographic database. Vanderbilt University installed the product in a much different way, incorporating GTO into their multi-purpose cataloging workstation environment, implementing all the required connections over the local area networks (LANs) in place in their library.

Conventional Configuration

GTO allows libraries to interactively transfer bibliographic and holdings records from a bibliographic data source, such as OCLC, RLIN, or CD-ROM products, into a library's main database. Under its original design, a staff person initiates the transfer from dedicated bibliographic utility terminals in the library. These terminals would have a connection to the utility itself and a serial cable leading to the NOTIS GTO PC. Library staff transmit selected records from the utility to the GTO PC which converts the records and uploads them to the mainframe where the NOTIS online software processes the records, adds them to the bibliographic file and dynamically updates the merged headings and standard number indexes. Figure 1 illustrates the conventional configuration of GTO.

Figure 1. Conventional GTO configuration.

Network-based configuration

Through the use of several hardware and software components, Vanderbilt has made it possible for any authorized microcomputer workstation on their network to have simultaneous access to NOTIS and OCLC and to be able to update the database with GTO. The relevant components include an IRMALAN/EP gateway attached to the NOTIS mainframe and its complimentary client software on each workstation, a Novell Asynchronous Communications Server (NACS), accessed through a network communications driver included in OCLC's Passport Version 2.0 communications software, and a Novell NetWare print queue serviced through a Castelle LANPress server. The network environment at Vanderbilt consists of a group of Novell NetWare 3.11 Ethernet LANs interconnected through a campus-wide broadband Ethernet.

This configuration provides a more flexible environment for cataloging than one where dedicated utility terminals are used for GTO. Vanderbilt library staff involved in any aspect of the cataloging process can use GTO from the convenience of their own microcomputer workstation rather than having to schedule time on a shared OCLC terminal. The multi-purpose workstation used at Vanderbilt enables a more efficient workflow that reduces the number of times each piece must be handled in the cataloging process. The network-based configuration of this workstation allows for a wide number of library staff to take advantage of this convenience without any additional cabling beyond that needed for their standard network connection.

The staff person's microcomputer, working with DOS or Microsoft Windows in a NetWare environment, has only a single Ethernet connection that provides for all its network and communications needs. The network configuration of the workstations in the library is illustrated by Figure 2. The network performs a number of functions for each library staff workstation including:

  • Access to software programs available on a NetWare file server
  • Storage of data files on NetWare file servers
  • Ability to print on laser printers through NetWare print queues
  • Connection to NOTIS
  • Connection to OCLC's PRISM service
  • Ability to export records through GTO
  • Access to any local or Internet-based TCP/IP services, including access to a local VAX/VMS system used for electronic mail, as well as access to the Internet using FTP, Telnet, TN3270, WAIS, Gopher, or Archie clients.

In a cataloging situation, a staff person can simultaneously access NOTIS and OCLC and instantly toggle between the two screens on a DOS-based system, or view the screens through overlapping windows on a system with Microsoft Windows. The following paragraphs provide additional details on how the workstations are configured.

Figure 2. Network configuration of library workstations.

Access to NOTIS

On the DOS system, the DCA IRMALAN Client for DOS provides the communications session with NOTIS as well as managing the task-switching between NOTIS and OCLC. This software has the ability to maintain a communications session with the mainframe and to toggle between the communications session and another DOS application. On a Windows-based system, the DCA IRMALAN Client for Windows accesses NOTIS, and Windows performs its usual task switching and memory management functions. In both cases, the IRMALAN client software accesses a DCA IRMALAN/EP gateway that connects to a 3720 front end processor via a V.35 SDLC direct attachment cable. The 3720 is channel-attached to the IBM 4381 mainframe that runs Acorn, Vanderbilt's NOTIS system. The IRMALAN/EP gateway supports DOS and Windows clients through the IPX protocols and Apple Macintosh clients through AppleTalk.

Access to OCLC

Once a staff person has logged onto NOTIS, a session can then be established with OCLC. On a workstation running under DOS, the process of loading the software to access both NOTIS and OCLC is automated through either the system's AUTOEXEC.BAT file or through Novell Menu options. On stations operating under Microsoft Windows, icons are available for each of these services. In either case, the OCLC Passport Version 2.0 software provides communications with the PRISM system. Vanderbilt's current arrangement involves a pair of OCLC communications controllers that have each of their asynchronous ports connected to a Novell Asynchronous Communications Controller (NACS). NACS is a device that allows devices that communicate with asynchronous serial protocols, such as that used by modems and the OCLC communications controller, to be accessed on a NetWare LAN. To connect to the NACS, the workstation must have communications software that supports the Network Asynchronous Services Interface, or NASI. Beginning with Version 2.0, OCLC's Passport software includes drivers for various network protocols, including TCP/IP, Int 14, and NASI. Using the NASI driver, Passport can access the ports on the communication controller through the NACS via the Ethernet, without need of a direct serial cable.

Access to GTO

The requirements multi-purpose workstation include the ability to export records from the OCLC session to NOTIS via GTO. Vanderbilt accomplishes this process through the use of a NetWare print queue in conjunction with a LANPress print server. All authorized GTO users have an entry in their NetWare login script that redirects a non-existent LPT3 device to a NetWare print queue. The OCLC Passport software is then configured to use this non-existent LPT3 device for exporting records. The GTO print queue is serviced by the Castelle LANPress which connects with a serial cable to one of the ports on the Hostess adapter of the GTO PC. Currently everyone that uses GTO on the network exports records into the same NetWare queue, and the LANPress channels all the records into a single port of the GTO Hostess adapter. The LANPress could also be configured to address another two ports on the Hostess adapter when it becomes necessary to include users associated with different processing units.

All software used by these workstations loads from a Novell NetWare file server rather than from the hard drive attached to the system. Having the software on the file server allows the network administrators to configure each workstation remotely and makes the process of updating software a simpler process. The security and administration features built into NetWare allow the network supervisor to easily control which network users can access any application. Configuration details, such as what VTAM address a particular user should be given in NOTIS, can be set up remotely. The ability to manage network features without the need to visit each workstation individually is an important feature.

Figure 3. Network diagram for library-related services.

Using the system

The operation of a DOS workstation configured in this way is generally fairly simple. The initial sequence that sets up the communications sessions is automated. When the system is powered on or reset, the system first prompts the user for his or her network password. Next, the IRMALAN for DOS client software and the OCLC Passport software each load automatically. The user presses both shift keys at once (Shift-Shift) to toggle back and forth between NOTIS and OCLC. In most cases the staff member will log into NOTIS, and press Shift-Shift to get to the OCLC session, and press Alt-A to call up the proper OCLC login script. Once properly logged into both systems, the staff person need only press Shift-Shift to instantly toggle between them.

The general process of transferring a record from OCLC using this networked multi-purpose workstation would be as follows. The staff member would have a title that needs to be added to the local database. He or she would first search NOTIS to make sure that there is not already a bibliographic record for the title. If no record is found, pressing Shift-Shift will bring OCLC to the fore, and the staff person can locate the desired record. The XPO command on PRISM will then export that record to the network, and the GTO machine will receive the record from the NetWare print queue and upload it to NOTIS. Within the usual 10-20 second interval, the record will be available on NOTIS. The staff person can press Shift-Shift to return to the NOTIS session, find the newly transferred or overlaid record, and perform any necessary changes or updates that may be required according to local cataloging conventions.

The configuration of the GTO PC. The GTO PC used by Vanderbilt in its networked environment is an IBM PC/2 Model 30 286 with an 8-port hostess adapter. Only two of its ports are used. Port 2 connects to the Castelle LANPress and Port 1 connects to the 7171. Although one could attach the first port of the Hostess adapter directly to the 7171, Vanderbilt uses a terminal server arrangement for the connection since the GTO PC is located some distance away from the 7171. Each port of the 7171 connects to DECServer 200 ports which are configured to allow connections to NOTIS from other terminal servers on the campus network. Port 1 of the Hostess adapter connects to a port of a DECServer which in turn connects to the Ethernet and establishes a virtual connection between the 7171 and the Hostess Adapter.

The path traveled by a record from OCLC to NOTIS may seem complex, but the process is totally transparent to the cataloger. When a staff person enters the XPO command, a record in MARC communications format passes out of the cataloger's microcomputer through the Ethernet cable onto the network and is placed in the GTO NetWare print queue, which then passes it to the Castelle LANPress, which then feeds into the Hostess adapter of the GTO PC. The record then goes into the NOTIS.QUE file of the GTO PC, and is immediately processed by the GTO PC software and uploaded out Port 1 of the Hostess adapter to the local DECServer port and onto the Ethernet, where it travels to the DECServer attached to the 7171. The 7171 receives the record and the mainframe-based NOTIS GTO programs process the record and update the indexes.

Availability and Reliability

GTO is available practically all the time. Because of the network configuration used, Vanderbilt finds that it is not necessary to restart the GTO PC on a daily basis as the NOTIS GTO documentation recommends. The only restrictions on availability are imposed by the batch updates of indexes done prior to 7:00 a.m. each weekday morning and by OCLC not offering access to PRISM on Sundays.

The GTO PC and its LANPress print server are located in the Library Systems office and require very little human intervention. Locating the GTO hardware in the Systems office facilitates any trouble shooting that is needed. Prior to implementing the network configuration, GTO machines were located in each of the locations that performed cataloging. The new arrangement relieves library staff in the technical services units from the responsibility of starting the GTO machines each morning and shutting them at the end of each day and monitoring their activity. In the former setup, the GTO PC had to be shut down and restarted each time a workstation attached to it needed to be turned off or reset to avoid a problem that caused a single record to be uploaded dozens of times. Because the network isolates the GTO PC from the physical connection to the utility workstations, this problem is avoided entirely.

Vanderbilt University finds that running GTO on the network to be much more stable and reliable than their former configuration which used serial cables between the cataloger's microcomputers and the GTO PC. The multi-purpose cataloging workstation allows a more efficient workflow in technical processing units, and the network configuration of GTO pays off economically through shared, distributed access to OCLC ports, and through savings in cable installation costs.

Related works:

Breeding, Marshall. “OCLC Connectivity: Current Models, Network Integration, and Future Directions.” OCLC Micro 8(4) (August 1992). pp. 28-36.

Breeding, Marshall. “Multipurpose Technical Services Workstations: Access to NOTIS/OCLC/GTO with a Single Microcomputer.” Library Hi Tech 9(3) (Issue 35, 1991) pp. 69-81.

Publication Year:1993
Type of Material:Article
LanguageEnglish
Published in: NOTISes
Issue:February 1993
Page(s):1-6
Publisher:NOTIS Systems, Inc.
Place of Publication:Evanston, IL
Notes:Marshall Breeding is the Library Networks and Microcomputer Analyst for the Jean and Alexander Heard Library at Vanderbilt University and is Editor-in-Chief of Library Software Review.
Company: NOTIS Systems, Inc.
Products: NOTIS
Libraries: Vanderbilt University
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