Libraries Going Digital

A quiet technological revolution is taking place in libraries across the nation.
As data transitions to the digital mode, libraries are being forced to adapt and change in order to stay relevant and give students, faculty and patrons the service and the information they demand.
For modern libraries trying to stay relevant in the digital age, there is no going back.
The demand for electronic content is unbelievable, said Richard Paustenbaugh, associate dean for Research and Instruction Services at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
At the same time downloading audio books or e-books is not happening, he said. It is because the Apple iPod dominates the market, controlling 70 percent of sales.
“Apple has not allowed publishers to sell audio books in a fashion that libraries can use,” Paustenbaugh said. Books can be downloaded to an iPod, but the process is tedious.
CDs remain the dominant format when it comes to audio books, Paustenbaugh said.
Meanwhile the OU-Tulsa library is turning the page toward digital technology.
The planned $8 million OU-Tulsa Library will have a groundbreaking in August. The 20,000 SF, two-story structure will house 100,000 items including 56,000 books and journal volumes, said Stewart Brower, library director.
The facility will have a full digitization center where staff can digitize real material.
“People will be trained to take an existing real-world item and digitize it,” Brower said. “Makes them individual learning objects.”
E-books might catch on one day, Paustenbaugh said, as people tire of looking at a screen all day.
“They are looking at a finding a quote or statistics,” he said. “We might sit and read a news Web site for a few pages, but if there is something longer, we print it out and take it with us.”
Today, the technology is way ahead of the market.
“Things need to settle down,” Paustenbaugh said. “I wish things would settle and we could move forward.”
As a culture, the U.S. has not moved into the Star Trek age, he said.
“Where the entire data of the world is at the library.”
The OU-Tulsa library will double in size from the current 9,000 SF, he said. The OU-Tulsa library is one of 10 libraries at the three campuses of the University of Oklahoma. University Libraries is the largest volume collection in the state containing more than 4.9 million volumes and more than 63,000 print and electronic serials subscriptions, according to the Bizzell Memorial Library Web site.
Among the perks at the newly constructed library along Yale Avenue will be double the space for students and faculty, Brower said.
“For example, with finals week, students need a great deal more space as there is no place private or quiet enough to get the work done,” he said.
The first floor will have a 1,100 SF information gallery, which will offer information and current activities as well as traveling exhibits from the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine.
“There will space set aside for wireless activity — general Internet and Wi-Fi,” Brower said.
What Brower referred to, as a “Knowledge Commons” will allow students and faculty to move gadgets around and “shove them together and work them various types of ways.”
“Laptops and Wi-Fi connections will be available to access library resources and materials,” he said.
Scanners, plotters and printers will be available.
“We will have Blu-tooth technology so we will rely on cabling as little as possible,” he said.
Study rooms are becoming a popular feature, Brower said. “Students are doing a lot of group work. Conference rooms will be set up to perform distance learning.”
An addition will feature education lab space — a kind of training facility — allowing students to practice giving presentations or graduate assistants to rehearse their lectures.
“Not bad for 10,000 SF,” Brower said
The technology services behind the scenes are where the real library work takes place, Brower said.
“The inter-library loan office processes material and journals through the network,” he said. “Researchers will be able to find material, have it scanned.”
As data and information transition to the Internet, libraries reliance on the inter-library loan is starting to dwindle, Brower said.
The second floor will resemble a traditional library, with general seating, study rooms and conference rooms.
“While the first floor is more interactive, the second floor is intended to be the more traditional library space,” Brower said.
The traditional stacks will house books and compact shelving to house journals.
The second floor will also have office space, a reading area with chairs, couches and end tables.
Overall, the library will be a place where students can unplug, Brower said.
“Students can come and unplug from the technology and focus on why they are here.” ?

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