Reporter 415, 23 February 1998

Great steps to global knowledge network

The University has taken a huge step towards meeting the information technology needs of the next century with the unveiling of two major developments.

The Edward Boyle Library, one of the country’s busiest university libraries, has been extended with a £3.28m Learning Centre. And the University is working with others in the region to create a hi-speed regional computer network.

The new Learning Centre was officially opened last week by Professor Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which contributed a quarter of the cost.

More than 10,000 students use the Edward Boyle Library daily during term time. The Learning Centre, an extension to all six floors of the library, has added 225 computer workstations and an extra 500 reading desks.

Professor Fender called the library the “hub” of the University, delivering a “very good resource and a focal point for development, particularly in information technology.” He said he felt “real pleasure at the excitement of students, coming into the library at almost any time of the day and night.”

University Librarian Lynne Brindley paid tribute to her predecessor, Reg Carr (who was present), for making the project happen. Among the many facilities provided at the new centre is a silent reading room which, she said, was very effectively policed by students. “When the Vice-Chancellor and I visited last week we were reprimanded for exchanging a few words,” she added.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Wilson said that when the library opened in 1975 there was no mention of information technology, an indication of the pace of change in the intervening years. “Through information technology, libraries such as ours connect the resources of the global knowledge network to staff and students,” he said. “Intelligent knowledge management is one of the exciting challenges facing the academic community.”

Meanwhile, the University has joined forces with seven others in the region to launch one of the world’s most advanced information technology networks. The £2.5m Yorkshire and Humberside Metropolitan Area Network (YHMAN) will provide links at up to 155Mbps – about ten times the speed of current systems – along with faster access to the national SuperJANET network. It is being managed for the group by the University of Leeds.

The project, backed by HEFCE and JISC funding, will boost regional collaboration in teaching, research and access to expensive hi-tech equipment. It will also aid expansion of part-time and distance-learning programmes, in line with the growing emphasis on lifelong learning.

University Computing Service director Dr Jon Duke, said: “Over time, it will be used for a wider range of collaboration which is expected to encompass the universities, their research partners, other education providers and individual students. For education in the region, it is tomorrow’s internet today.”

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