Z39.50 is a network protocol that many universities use to provide remote access to library computer databases so end users can view the details of a book for research purposes.
I have discovered many top-notch universities have really lousy Z39.50 connections.


Scholars who rely upon that connection need it to be lively, reliable
and responsive. I was also surprised to see how many top-notch
universities don’t have a lot of books in the stacks for the Z39.50
protocol to search and provide a successful find.

Here are the Top Five Worst Z39.50 University Library Database
Connections for 2005 and some of these databases are private but
through associated research projects with other scholars I have been
able to directly use these Z39.50 services:

5. University of Pennsylvania: When UPenn is not busy the library’s
returns are deep and robust. Trying to get access on the weekend or
late at night means you will be in a long waiting mode for a return
response.

4. Harvard University (Hollis): This private Z39.50 connection would
make one think it would be extra robust and reliable but, in practice,
the returns are slow and, at times, garbled.

3. Yale University:
Getting returns back from Yale is like licking molasses off a frozen
pole — it’s sweet when it warms up but you’ll die frozen trying to get
a taste.

2. Columbia University in the City of New York: As a graduate
of Columbia I was specifically disappointed by Columbia’s Z39.50
lackluster database depth and speed and responsiveness of the Z39.50
connectoid.

1. New York University: NYU’s system is infamous for timing
out that makes it the Number One Worse Z39.50 Library Database
Connection for 2005. You ask for a return and you can wait up to 30
seconds for a response from the system during high load times. If you
are in a rush and if you want deep returns, you will need to go
elsewhere.

I identified the worst Z39.50 Connections of 2005 in order to give some
light to the dark experience of these database retrieval systems from
the point-of-view of an active remote scholar on publication deadline.

There are university Z39.50 connections out there that are routinely
deep, fast, intricate, surprising and absolutely fun to use but to
reveal them to you here would likely give them a place in The Top Five
Worse Z39.50 University Library Database Connections for 2006 because
they would become overloaded and popular.