Map of/Excerpts from August 23, 2014, Interview of Jim Aagaard

Link to complete unedited audio recording of interview 

(There seem to be problems with moving to a different place in the recording under Chrome; IE and Firefox are OK.)



0:22:40  LC MARC tapes / MARC Search system; very ingenious

0:57:10  Linked Systems Project …“most elegant technical solution was not necessarily the one that was going to get adopted”

1:01:30  Keyword/Boolean:  “poor idea(?)”

1:19:10  Jerry: “Do you remember John being the driving force behind this?”

1:27:00  Jim:   “We liked to brag that it was in use by all, or almost all, of the Big Ten universities.”

1:35:40  Jim:   “I kind of felt that Ameritech was letting NOTIS wither on the vine.”

1:41:00 Jim:    “I certainly was proud of the Merged Headings Index….  I guess I’m proud of the way the whole thing fit together eventually….”  ]


Complete map/excerpts


0:00:00  Intro

0:00:25  Links to other relevant webpages:

·       a 4-page interview of Jim by Wayne McPherson, especially strong on Jim’s pre-NOTIS and early-NOTIS years, which appeared in the November, 1988, issue of NOTISes

·       a 4-minute video interview of Jim , made at the time of his retirement in 2011

·       Five articles and papers which Jim wrote  (-- these are referenced in various places on the site,  but all are included in the Bibliography).

·       a brief description of my own history with NOTIS.

0:01:15  1960-67:  Northwestern Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Vogelback

0:02:40  Looking for a different job, joins John and Velma on library automation project in 1967   

0:06:30  Decision to use Administrative Computing’s IBM 360 rather than Academic Computing’s CDC; online vs. batch

0:08:40  IBM 360

0:09:50  Choice of Assembler as programming language; comments in programs

0:11:10  Circulation as first module vs. Tech Services (1969)

0:12:10  No remote terminal drivers

0:13:00  Advent of CICS; made programming online system much easier

0:14:10  Circ as better initial application; new library; “something to show; Circulation was visible”

0:16:40  Circ terminals (IBM 1030s)

0:18:00  Description of circ transaction/session

0:19:30  Jim:  “Printer part of it was an operational nightmare” 

0:21:00  Self-check machines from very first – very unusual in those days

0:22:00  Acq/Serials/Cataloging in 1971

0:22:40  LC MARC tapes; MARC Search system; very ingenious

0:24:00  no tape drives; LC tapes tapes transferred weekly to IBM “disk packs” at Argonne National Laboratory library, loaded at NU

0:25:30  author/title/subject index compression; keyword-in-context

0:27:20  Guide Screen concept

0:29:00  Input of authority records begins (from card file) (1979)

0:30:00  Use of IBM Selectric typewriter-terminals in ‘70’s

0:31:00  Conversational/pseudoconversational 

0:34:00  Library gets own IBM 4331 computer (Nov. 1979); liberating;  made deal with NU business office; “Library was the only one that ever paid them back”

0:37:45  Vince McCoy as operator

0:38:10  Installation of NOTIS in Venezuela

0:38:50  University of Florida

0:39:50  CICS; MVS and VSE;  “CICS was a great thing”

0:41:20  Start of Marketing (early ‘80’s); Ted Welch, Director of Development; Dean French; didn’t work out

0:43:45  Florida/FCLA

0:44:15  pseudoconversational article in June, 1985, issue of NOTISes

0:45:30  New Circ; barcodes; loss of self-check terminals?   

0:46:00  Pressure from University to go to barcodes (for patrons)

0:47:30  Jim:  “When cards for books had been punched [in 1970] we had written the records to tape;  those were used [in the 1980’s] to produce labels with both the barcode# and call# on it [smart barcodes]”

0:49:10  Barcode technology has lasted

0:49:50  Central State OCLC Transfer (1983-4); Jerry:  “met important demand from customers”

0:52:45  NUL’s bibliographic record sources:  LC tapes and RLIN – later OCLC;  Gary Strawn’s recollection
0:55:50  Jim:  “For a very small institution it wouldn’t have made sense to use the LC tape/MARC Transfer as we were doing”

0:57:10  Linked Systems Project (LSP); initiative from Library of Congress; OSI; IBM had its own protocols  (SNA, token-ring); later, TCP/IP and Ethernet;  “the most elegant technical solution was not necessarily the one that was going to get adopted” 

1:01:10  LSP influence on z39.50?

1:01:30  Keyword/Boolean:  “poor idea(?)”

1:03:30  Importance in marketplace

1:04:20  Jerry:  “In my personal experience, I have found keyword/Boolean searching superior to  controlled vocabulary in certain forms of subject searching.” 

1:05:30 Jerry:  “No one was suggesting that keyword indexes should be the only access to  the catalog,…” 

1:06:20:  Jim:  “We were pretty limited in what we could do…. People had trouble doing

 keyword/Boolean searching successfully….  Needed something that was more intuitive”

1:08:20  Jerry:  University of Pennsylvania had written a requirement for KWB into their contract

1:09:00  Jerry:  “I really think of them as complementing each other….”

1:10:10  Dynamic KWB indexing

1:10:10  Presence of in Aleph 500 and Voyager

1:12:10  Lack of in BRS/NOTIS

1:14:40  Velma’s 1993 NUGM speech:  “Velma expressed frustration with the course of events in recent years”

1:18:00  <end of Velma quote> 

1:18:30  EDUCOM Report / marketing of NOTIS 

1:19:10  Jerry:  “Do you remember John being the driving force behind this?  Are there other specific people you remember being involved?

 Jim:  “I think a major part of the push was coming from the University administration.”

1:21:10  Jerry:  “Do you think John would have been satisfied if you’d gotten Harvard and a few other ARL libraries?” 

 Jim:  “I think he would have been….  Jane came from a background where she was marketing to small [academic] and public libraries.  These were the people she knew.” 

1:23:40  Jerry:  “What do you think of the idea of the ‘word-of-mouth’ model being able to continue?”

 Jim: “If we’d charged enough to make a profit on it, would we have discouraged a lot of those early customers?”

1:25:20  Jim:  “We do get concerned that the basic architecture remains somewhat consistent.” 

1:26:20  Jim:  “I was never in a position to do an analysis of what the commercial version [of NOTIS] was like.”

1:27:00  Jerry:  “It doesn’t seem that having NOTIS be a system that was used all over the country was something that concerned you…”

 Jim:  “No.  We liked to brag that it was in use by all, or almost all, of the Big Ten


1:27:45  Jerry:  Gary Strawn:  “At no point did we use out-of-the-box NOTIS….”

1:28:50  Pressure to use the commercial version of NOTIS…;  strong push coming from Jane;

 Peter Roll.

1:31:00  Transfer of NUL NOTIS from library hardware to UMS

1:33:10  Jim:  “I kind of got out of this for two reasons:   1) I was obviously not at all happy with either of  these changes;…” [  2) I didn’t want to be accused of subverting the efforts to implement these changes, but cooperated completely with the staff who were responsible.]  

1:34:40  Jerry:  “I was rather surprised to find that Northwestern switched from NOTIS to Endeavor’s Voyager system in July of 1998; I would have expected NUL to be one of the last libraries to move off of NOTIS….” 

1:35:40  Jim:  “I kind of felt that Ameritech was letting NOTIS wither on the vine.”

1:36:20  Jerry:  “You continued working in the library for many years after that….” [until retirement in 2011]

1:37:30  Jerry:  “… I feel that if NOTIS had stayed as a relatively small enterprise, dedicated to meeting the needs of Northwestern University Library (and similar large research libraries), you could have found or attracted the few good programmers and analysts required for such an enterprise….  But, when it was decided that NOTIS should be expanded to meet the needs of the broad library market, that dictated a much larger development group.   And recruiting the staff for such an enterprise and running it was not what you wanted to do….”

Jim:  “I was offered the opportunity to go with the company when it separated.  I declined….  I preferred to stay at the University.”

Jerry:  “Would you have wanted to supervise 20+ people?”

Jim:  “No”.

1:39:30  Jerry:  “It seems to me that, aside from Northwestern having never gone down the track of altering the system to meet the needs of the broad library market, the best situation would have been one in which the NOTIS Development group found a distinct area for you (and Velma) to work in, mutually agreed upon by all parties.   Do you think that this might have worked?”

 Jim:  “We sort of tried to do that [with the Merged Headings Index]….”

1:40:20  Jim corrects Jerry’s misunderstanding about his father having been a Northwestern professor.

1:41:00  Jerry: “Are there are any particular parts or features of NOTIS which you are especially proud of?   Ones which required especial perseverance or ingenuity?”

Jim:  “I certainly was proud of the Merged Headings Index….  I guess I’m proud of the way the whole thing fit together eventually….”

Jerry:   “Yes … the modularity; the use of efficient subroutines.”