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June 10, 1999


Pitt needs to evaluate PAT's service

To the editor:

As the University reopens negotiation with PAT about increasing Pitt's payment for bus service for students, staff, and faculty, I hope that they consider a few things. As the 8:16 a.m. number 500 bus whisked by me today as I stood at my bus stop, it occurred to me that the University has no reliable means of evaluating the bus service provided by PAT. Although the driver looked right at me and continued past the stop as I waved at him, I knew that my calls of complaint to PAT would be met by a busy signal. And that is exactly what happened the 27 times that I tried to get through this morning. I also knew that even if I did get through, little, if anything, would happen. The Highland Park Neighborhood Association has made numerous complaints to PAT about bus drivers speeding as well as leaving their vehicles running and unattended and nothing has been done. My complaint about his running a red light would not be more successful.

It seems to me that if the University is investing in bus service, it should have full assurances that the service is well run and safe. The University should not be paying for overcrowded buses and careless and dangerous drivers. A strong and effective system to monitor bus safety and service needs to be put in place and Pitt should not renew its contract until that happens. If the Port Authority cannot provide a decent and safe system, then the University should consider investing in more parking garages in Oakland or restarting its private bus service.

Daniel L. Hinkson

Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology

Graduate School of Public Health


G. Robert Harkins, director of Parking, Transportation and Services, replies:

In response to Mr. Hinkson's letter, I would first like to thank him for alerting us to the problems he has experienced with Port Authority. It is very important for us to know of any problems with Port Authority's services so that they can be resolved in a timely manner. While I cannot dispute that there are problems from time to time with Port Authority's bus service, we do work very closely, and will continue to work with them to monitor and improve bus service. Each semester we conduct a survey of Port Authority riders to see what, if anything, can be improved. Also, since June of 1996, Port Authority has added over 129 service hours to the Oakland bus routes! I believe that this is a testimonial to Port Authority's commitment to provide adequate service for Oakland commuters. Regarding the building of additional parking garages, the goal of the University is to reduce vehicular traffic in Oakland. Therefore, any additional parking lots or garages, other than those to replace lost spaces, are not planned. Students, staff and faculty are urged to contact the Department of Parking, Transportation and Services directly with any comments, suggestions or complaints. We can be reached at (412) 624-8612 or e-mail at In conclusion, I must say that we have had very few complaints over the past two semesters. If we do see a rise in complaints, we will take additional action.

Don Bell, chief operations officer for the Port Authority, replies:

This is in response to the letter written by Daniel L. Hinkson regarding Port Authority bus service to University of Pittsburgh students, faculty and staff.

Let me first apologize to Mr. Hinkson for his inability to board the 500 Highland Park-Bellevue in a timely manner and for his inability to reach our Customer Service Center. I would like to assure him and all Port Authority customers that we are making every effort to ensure service to all bus stops and access to our Customer Service representatives.

During the morning and afternoon rush hours, the heavy volume of incoming calls sometimes makes reaching a Customer Service representative difficult. In that regard, the Customer Service Center's phone system was recently expanded to enable representatives to answer more calls. On the day in question, 12 representatives were working and nearly 2,500 calls were received.

I must disagree, however, with Mr. Hinkson's assertion that Port Authority does not pursue solutions to customer complaints. All complaints are followed up, and customers are encouraged to help in that regard by supplying as many details as possible about their experiences. The University's Office of Parking and Transportation also works directly with Port Authority by passing on complaints, although very few have been received.

Port Authority also has a good working relationship with Highland Park community groups, including the Highland Park Neighborhood Association. We do make every effort to address issues in their area and will continue to do so.

Port Authority's bus service is safe and reliable, and I take great exception to Mr. Hinkson's characterization of Port Authority operators as being "careless and dangerous." They are very conscientious employees who are well-trained, professional drivers. Port Authority will continue to work with the University of Pittsburgh to further improve service to the University and its students.


Article overlooked preservation efforts here

To the editor:

The article "No digitization without preservation" (May 27, 1999) describes many of the issues facing the library community as it attempts to digitize materials for broad access via the Web. However, it discounts the thoughtful efforts, both here at the University Library System (ULS) and in the larger digital library community, to address the preservation needs of the original materials — whether they are in traditional paper or analog formats or "born digital."

While it is true that many novices in the field naively hope that digitization is preservation, they quickly find that leaders in the field such as Harvard, Cornell, the National Park Service, the Library of Congress and the North East Document Conservation Center share no such optimism. Indeed, the major educational events in the field, such as NEDCC's School for Scanning, emphasize the need to develop a preservation plan for original materials prior to digitization. Furthermore, funding agencies such as the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Program require a preservation plan for original materials before they will fund a digitization project.

Contrary to the implications in the article, the Institute for Library and Museum Science and the A. W. Mellon Foundation are funding projects that will address the long term preservation, storage and migration of materials in a digital format. Leaders in the library preservation field such as Paul Conway of Yale University are leading the way in these efforts.

As long as the problems of preservation remain unsolved, neither the major library players in the digital library field nor the ULS will ignore the preservation needs of the original. Contrary to the portrayal of the Historic Pittsburgh project in your article, we are addressing the preservation needs of every item that is digitized in the project. As a part of the digitization process we make preservation-quality acid-free facsimile reprints of brittle books to return to our shelves. If a book has intrinsic or artifactual value we scan the materials on a scanner designed not to harm the original. Minor repairs and cleaning are done on materials as needed. And some materials are brought to the attention of our preservation department when the work that needs to be done is more extensive than our team can provide. This effort is led by a librarian with a preservation background, in consultation with the head of our preservation department. In fact, due to the sheer volume of materials in the ULS, many of these items would not come to the attention of the preservation department without their inclusion in this project. We encourage Bruce Steele to come and see these efforts first hand.

In addition, the Digital Research Library of the ULS has been careful to choose open file formats and standards such as SGML which have been widely adopted and have the greatest chance of long-term survival. We anxiously await the results of the national studies that will assist us in ensuring the long term storage and access of our digital materials.

ULS has adopted a policy that requires any new digitization project to have a plan for the preservation of the original materials before a single item is digitized.

The University Library System has not ignored preservation initiatives in order to promote digital access. In addition to the NEH grant mentioned in your article, we have a brittle books program that seeks to reformat materials in traditional, commonly accepted preservation formats. We are negotiating a contract for a mass deacidification program to help preserve books on acidic paper that are not yet brittle. And we regularly repair and rebind books in our preservation department using both staff and students from the School of Information Sciences, who get valuable training in preservation techniques.

It is not surprising that the best digital library projects and standards are emerging from the places that care the most about preservation such as the Library of Congress and the caretakers of irreplaceable materials — the preservation departments of places like Cornell, Harvard and Yale. Given their long experience with reformatting deteriorating materials, they bring extensive knowledge from which to build new standards for the digital age. Far from being in conflict with preservation efforts, digitization efforts have, in many cases, sharpened the focus on some of the preservation issues facing libraries today. As those who are new to the digitization field educate themselves about the process, they quickly encounter the problems of preserving our past. For many preservation departments, digitization projects have provided a rallying point around which preservationists have been able to reassert traditional preservation values even as they move into the digital realm.

Elizabeth Shaw

Digital Projects Manager

Digital Research Library

University Library System

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