In the early 1960s, the Government of Ontario asked the University of Toronto library system to build and catalogue book collections to serve the needs of five new universities. A collaboration was struck between the Libraries, the University’s Institute of Computer Science—headed by Professor Calvin Gotlieb, and the IBM Toronto Data Centre, to automate catalogue production for these collections. Ritvars Bregzis, Head of the Libraries’ Cataloging Department, led the team.
This sparked a period of innovation and rapid growth at UTL in the area of library automation, including the development of the first machine-readable format for catalogue records by Bregzis, whose work was pivotal to the development of the MARC (machine-readable catalogue record) format—still the international standard. Another product of this innovation was the UTLAS (University of Toronto Library Automation Systems) suite of automation tools that launched in 1973 and served over 600 libraries around the world by 1981.
In the early 1990s, UTL’s electronic services began to expand considerably with the addition of seven online periodical databases from the H. W. Wilson Company and a subscription to Medline, a major bibliographic database for medicine and the life sciences. The introduction of Medline in 1991, the largest installation in the world at the time, distinguished the University among other academic institutions in Canada. Online library services became available on the World Wide Web in 1994.
In 1996, the Scotiabank Information Commons was completed and opened to the university community under the leadership of Carole Moore, UTL Chief Librarian. The new service provided sixty computer workstations, scanners and printers. Its New Media Suites were equipped with digital audio and video equipment, while the Digital Studio had high-end scanners for reflective and transparent media such as photographs, film of various sizes, and slides.
The Systems Department, first established in 1967 to provide computing services to the university community, is now known as Information Technology Services. Its expert staff continue to develop and support a wide range of innovative electronic library services which support research, teaching and learning at the University. Some examples include: the online library catalogue, a streaming media service, an open access research repository, special digital collections, data archiving and preservation tools, and a data centre with 600 TB of storage capacity to house the Libraries’ growing collection of electronic resources.