Designed and launched January 3, 2006, the first ELM Portal provided a single point of
access to all of the ELM databases, easy authentication, and helped Minnesota libraries,
patrons, and residents more easily access the statewide collection of databases by
providing categories, a special section for kids and teens, database descriptions, and
database specs and direct links.
The recently redesigned ELM Portal launched July 6,
2011. The new design incorporates:
an enhanced organization including new categories based on subjects, content types, and
grade level as well as providing tags; an improved integration of all MnKnows resources;
newly created support pages for students, teachers, librarians, and the broader Minnesota
community; increased access points; and new functionality such as ELM for K-12 Academic
Standards and ELM Personalized. Much of Minitex Reference Outreach & Instruction's
services today are providing instruction on the use of these databases for teachers,
students, and library staff alike.
Interlibrary loan requests were checked in the University of Minnesota's card catalog.
Students and some full-time staff would grab stacks of requests for books and check to
see if they were owned at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Twin Cities. If the
item wasn't owned by libraries on the University's Twin Cities Campus, Minitex staff
would look on OCLC WorldCat for other locations in the Minitex region where we could
refer those requests. If staff found the item at a University Libraries location, we
wrote the campus library name(s) and call number(s) on the request, and staff would
retrieve the item on the next visit to that campus library.
Today we check the University's online catalog, MNCAT. However, more and more we are
moving away from manual checking of OCLC's WorldCat for finding other regional locations.
Check out the video where Minitex staff member Paul Swanson talks about
requests, which is currently being used for our incoming VDX requests and will be
expanded to requests we receive on Aleph in the near future.
January 1, 2000. Total Deposits: 0.
But MLAC wasn't empty; it was the temporary home to the Science & Engineering Library
during renovation of Walter Library. Hear about the early beginnings of the Minnesota
Library Access Center and the construction of the caverns from an oral
history recording with Kathy Drozd.
June 30, 2011. Total deposits: 1,408,935.
The shelving area in MLAC is nearly the size of a football field and is just about full.
With shelves more than 17 feet tall, Bib the Book and MLAC staff use specially equipped
forklifts to reach the upper shelves. Take an online tour of MLAC
hosted by Bib the Book.
Before we had access to the Internet to send requests, referral requests were first typed
off-line on a TWX (Teletypewriter eXchange Service) machine that generated a paper tape with
punch holes. Considered a speedy way to transmit the requests at the time, the paper tape
was fed through a machine which was connected to a special phone line that could send the
requests to the lending library's TWX machine in readable form. Minitex continued to use
the TWX as a request printer in our office until 1999, well after we began using other
software and methods of sending referral requests to libraries in the region.
Pictured (left): Mark Eckes using the TWX machine in the 1970s.
A variety of Internet-based interlibrary loan software is available, many of which allow
patrons to generate requests that are routed to lending libraries without staff mediation.
Among those currently in use in the Minitex office and the region are Aleph, VDX, ILLiad,
Worldcat Resource Sharing, and Agent.
Pictured (left): Renae Johnson working on Aleph, 2010.
Providing training sessions and interacting with staff of Minitex participating libraries used to
involve lots of travel. Hand-drawn maps and bison blocking the road were not unheard of, and many
Minitex staffers have interesting stories about adventures experienced while travelling throughout
Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Listen to one such adventure in the oral history interview with former Minitex staff member,
Mary Rae Oxborrow (about 6 minutes into the recording).
Pictured (left): Adventures in North Dakota.
While we still enjoy travelling around the region to provide in-person training sessions and site
visits, Minitex staff provide many training options and have conversations with library staff
members through webinars, virtual meetings, and other online conversations. Not only do these
sessions save travel costs for Minitex and participating library staff, they make it possible for
us to offer training sessions on many more topics and allow staff of libraries from Williston to
Winona and Hibbing to Hot Springs to participate in the same session without leaving their own
desk. Virtual meetings mean that Minitex staff can talk directly with their contacts and other
staff members of participating libraries. See Minitex Training and Events
for more information.
Pictured (left): Dave Linton provides a webinar on OCLC Local Holdings Record Maintenance.
On the wall in the Minitex office, in the basement of the University of Minnesota's O. Meredith
Wilson Library, we had a life-size Peter Max "winged messenger" painting that was done by a staff
member that helped brighten
our cement walls. Listen to an oral history from former Minitex
staff member Mary Rae Oxborrow (about 12 minutes, 30 seconds into the interview) in which
she describes what it was like to work in the first Minitex office space.
Hanging in the workspace that housed Minitex's Document Delivery and Delivery staffs, the winged
fellow was a great illustration of our efforts to get to and from campus libraries quickly.
We are located in the Elmer L. Andersen Library
at ground level in a beautifully designed building that also houses the
University of Minnesota Libraries Archives and Special
Collections, and the Minnesota Library Access Center (MLAC) caverns
hundreds of feet below. Over time, Minitex has expanded our programs and services to include
cooperative purchasing of electronic resources and library products; MLAC, a high-density storage
facility; instruction on Electronic Library for Minnesota resources; training and assistance with
cataloging, digitization and metadata, and OCLC; and MnLINK: a statewide virtual library. Minitex
is also the administrative home of the Minnesota Digital Library.
Begun in 1973, the Minitex Reference Service provided back-up reference referral to all types of
libraries throughout Minnesota. Staff relied heavily on the extensive collections of the University
of Minnesota–Twin Cities, Minneapolis Public Library, and Minnesota Historical Society. There
was such an overwhelming response to the reference referral program that staff often had very little
time for any other work. Prior to the web intake form (introduced in 1999), questions were submitted
by phone, fax, or mail.
Pictured (left): Loren Taylor, Minitex Reference, 1970s.
As of July 1, 2011, Minitex was faced with the difficult, but unavoidable decision of having
to discontinue reference referral after 38 years of service because of reductions in funding.
Today, Minitex Reference Outreach and Instruction coordinates the AskMN: The Librarian is in!
statewide virtual reference program and participates in providing chat reference.
Early on, Minitex established a special relationship with the
Minneapolis Central Library. The
proximity, size, and scope of the Central Library collection made it a natural fit for the Minitex
mission to share library resources.
In the beginning, an enterprising Minitex staffer, Jean Knippenberg, visited Central to fill requests on her
way home from work. The details of those requests have faded, but it is believed
she was making copies from journals.
Over time, Minneapolis Central and Minitex developed a more
substantial relationship with Minitex staff visiting Central daily to fill requests. At the peak,
we were making 2 trips to Central a day. By FY 93/94, we tried to fill over 18,000 requests from Central. Of
those, we were able to fill over 14,000, with over 10,000 being photocopies.
These days, 1 staff member visits Central daily, and we fill about 8,500 requests
a year. Loans have taken over as the primary request retrieval. Improved technology has allowed
the Central library to bear less of a burden in the resource sharing arena, as other
libraries have greatly increased the number of items they supply.
Minneapolis Central continues
to be an important resource to the Minitex region with its enormous collection of musical
scores started by a donation from Emil Oberhoffer, the first conductor of the Minneapolis
Symphony Orchestra (now the Minnesota Orchestra); the Kittleson World War II collection, which
has a large number of posters from the period available online or as reproductions; and many
other special treasures.
We would also like to recognize that the Hennepin County Library is celebrating its
125th anniversary this year. Ground
was broken for the Minneapolis Central Library in 1886.
Every day, we packed tubs, and then drove them down to the Greyhound bus station. During the
winter around the holidays, the lines were very long and we would send two people and stand there
holding the tubs. The point was overnight delivery!!!
During this time we sent one box via
Greyhound to each major city. One of the libraries took the responsibility to drive down to
their Greyhound bus station and pick up their tubs for routing to libraries in their city and
to bring down the one tub to get on Greyhound for us to pick up.
Each box was painted a distinct
color and that helped for sorting purposes. Some cities, St. Cloud on very busy days, had two
boxes. We moved from using beer boxes, to purchasing boxes from Chippewa Water.
To hear more about Minitex Delivery Services in the early years, listen to an oral history
interview with Kathy Drozd.
Now, we often have 9-10 tubs going to different cities, some days 2-3 tubs are packed and sealed
for one library location. We might send 10 to the city of Rochester and 2-3 presorted for Rochester
Public. We handle on average over 55,000 tubs a year.
We use a courier that drops directly into the ILL offices, for routing to the next level of
locations if needed. We move over 1 million items in the backbone delivery.
One of Minitex's important goals has always been to communicate with the staff members of
participating libraries and the library community to discuss our programs and services and seek
input and suggestions. Perhaps the longest running communication vehicle has been the Minitex
MESSENGER, our general newsletter that provides information about the full range of Minitex
The first MESSENGER (Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1974), contained information about the programs
of the Minnesota Interlibrary Teletype Exchange (yes, Minitex is an acronym of such long vintage
that many can't identify all the permutations that the full name has had over the years). The
issue talks about the Minnesota libraries that were part of Minitex as well as the services that
Minitex provided. (For more information, hear Hear Mary Rae Oxborrow, a former Minitex staff member,
talk about the winged messenger logo and the first newsletter about 14 minutes into her
oral history interview.)
Currently, the MESSENGER is published in print and online
on the Minitex website, providing information about Minitex programs and news from participating
libraries throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.