GALILEO (GeorgiA LIbrary LEarning Online), a project of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, has provided online access to library materials to the state of Georgia since 1995. GALILEO is Georgia’s virtual library, with electronic books, periodicals, journals, magazines, newspapers, such reference materials as encyclopedias, and special collections, and access to Georgia’s library catalogs. Through collaboration and resource sharing, GALILEO provides universal access to library materials and information for all Georgia citizens. It does not replace the library but complements the services offered by libraries.
The primary objective of GALILEO is to utilize available technology to electronically deliver uniform and universal access to extensive educational resources to everyone in Georgia. The intent is to make it easier for libraries to share resources and to equalize access to information throughout the state. Through the use of sophisticated technology, GALILEO connects all of Georgia’s communities regardless of location or economic considerations.
GALILEO’s history began in August 1994, when the University System of Georgia’s chancellor, Stephen Portch, asked his advisory staff to consider how they would spend $20 million. The staff and system librarians suggested that funds be allocated to enhance systemwide library services, especially databases offering full-text materials—a complicated idea that librarians had long been pursuing. The chancellor was excited by the prospect of providing vastly improved, wide-ranging information services and superior library access to system students, faculty, and staff, and potentially to all Georgia citizens.
GALILEO made its debut on September 21, 1995, just 150 days after the governor and legislature approved funding. Initial access was for University System of Georgia faculty and its more than 200,000 students. The founders anticipated that in later years other educational entities would want to participate. Because GALILEO was instantly popular, however, within six months some private academic institutions requested to join the GALILEO family. All Georgia citizens now have access to GALILEO from school libraries, public libraries, and home computers.
GALILEO has been hailed as one of the earliest and most comprehensive statewide library systems in existence in the United States today.
GALILEO serves more than 2,500 locations across Georgia: public colleges and universities, private colleges and universities, technical colleges, public libraries, and public K-12 schools. All communities have a standard set of licensed (for pay) and “free” databases. (Databases can be described as the modern versions of such tools as the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature.) GALILEO databases allow users to search for articles published in journals, and they open up a world of information with full-text or electronic books, periodicals, and reference sources. The advantage of licensed resources is the reliability and quality of the information.
GALILEO’s Kids’ Page, intended for users between grades three and seven, offers age-appropriate databases and Internet resources for elementary and middle school students. The Kids’ Page has greatly simplified information retrieval among GALILEO’s youngest users and is extremely useful for Georgia’s teachers in their day-to-day classroom instruction.
Practical benefits of GALILEO include system versatility and expandability, greater standardization of services and integration of services among Georgia’s libraries, and enhanced ease of searching and efficiency of information retrieval for users throughout Georgia.
Within the university system, GALILEO Interconnected Libraries (GIL) provides the library management systems for the thirty-four system institutions; GIL has unified the collections of those libraries through a union catalog containing more than 4.5 million bibliographic records, of which 3.8 million titles are unique. Through the GIL Express universal borrowing module, which utilizes a sophisticated patron validation system, users are able to borrow books from any system institution, remotely or in person, regardless of the borrower’s home institution.
The Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) provides a platform for access to manuscripts, books, diaries, newspapers, pamphlets, video, and other unique resources on the history and culture of Georgia that are currently housed in rare book rooms and archives of Georgia libraries. Making these primary documents available online allows users to see the actual words and images without having to visit special collections or having to handle precious and fragile documents.
An important DLG project, Georgia HomePLACE (Providing Library and Archives Collections Electronically), offers a virtual doorway into Georgia’s past by making digitized versions of family, local history, and related records available online. Georgia HomePLACE includes the Vanishing Georgia Collection of more than 18,000 photographs, housed in the Georgia Department of Archives and History, that document the economic, social, cultural, and political history of Georgia. The New Georgia Encyclopedia, an entirely electronic reference work, is part of the DLG.
GALILEO is a World Wide Web–based virtual library, and thus technology is integral to its very existence. For many institutions and libraries, GALILEO represented the first opportunity to use the emerging Internet and Web technologies to access information anywhere in the institution. Since its inception GALILEO use has increased to up to 600 simultaneous GALILEO user sessions throughout the day.
GALILEO has two server sites that provide mirroring and redundancy: the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens and Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta. Mirroring (exact duplication of information) is intended to keep GALILEO accessible to users in the event that one site is temporarily unavailable.
GALILEO has more than fifty databases that are maintained locally, including digital collections and licensed products. The full-text titles available in GALILEO databases are estimated to number more than 9,000, but this number fluctuates depending upon vendor/publisher contracts.
GALILEO manages authentication and menuing for multiple local, Internet, and licensed resources and multiple institutions through the Web interface. This authentication system covers institutional profiles, records for licensed products, locally loaded “free” databases, evaluated Internet sites, and vendor records.
GIL distributes the catalogs of all university system institutions, the Georgia Department of Archives and History catalog, and the System Union Catalog from Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. GIL employs Endeavor’s Voyager software.
GALILEO’s greatest success lies in having made universal information access a reality in Georgia. Because GALILEO is available in public libraries, it supports the state’s commitment to lifelong learning among its citizens. GALILEO has become an indispensable research tool, and its use has exploded since its launch.
Remote access to GALILEO has given Georgia’s citizens more equal access to information. Students of small or remote educational institutions and residents of economically depressed areas in Georgia can now use resources once available only in more affluent regions. Distance learners can conduct research in a fully functioning virtual library that can be reached from any computer with Internet access.
The resources available through GALILEO have grown dramatically, which has enabled libraries throughout Georgia to distribute their resources for the greatest possible benefit. Libraries and K-12 media centers are no longer limited to the size of their physical collections; every institution now has access to thousands of full-text journals and electronic books that were unavailable before GALILEO.
Since its inception the essence of GALILEO has been the spirit of collaboration. GALILEO has crossed many administrative avenues, encouraging unprecedented cooperation among numerous groups. As GALILEO has evolved, strong partnerships have been forged among many diverse entities, and GALILEO strives to remain as responsive as possible to all constituents.