Modernization brings new resources to libraries

by Stacy Jo

No longer merely a concentrated collection of books and reference materials, major technological and structural changes will boost the user-friendliness and accessibility of the massive force called the University libraries.
The development of online research tools, the evolution of a digital media center and the construction of a library access center are among efforts to reshape the image of the traditional four-walled, book-loaded library.
Although there are 16 libraries in the University system, the East Bank’s Walter and the West Bank’s Wilson serve as the core libraries of the system. Specialized libraries — such as the law, journalism, mathematics and East Asian libraries — flood the campus with discipline-specific resources.
Home to more than five million books, the University’s library system boasts the 15th-largest academic library collection in the country. The libraries also offer special collections such as the Children’s Literature Research Collection and the Charles Babbage Institute Collection.
“We have many rich resources. There’s more than meets the eye,” said Susan Gangl, reference librarian and chairwoman of the University Library Orientation Coordinating Group.
Students will discover that many new resources cannot be found between dust-lined book jackets on library shelves. Because student use of online information searching has increased, the libraries created an online research tool called QuickStart, which is still being field-tested.
Accessible from the libraries’ Lumina network, QuickStart was designed to help direct students’ research to quality academic Web sites, saving them precious research time.
Further online resource assistance will come in the form of Walter Library’s digital media center. Students will have access to a group of online experts comprised of faculty, researchers and graduate students working on multimedia projects.
University librarian Tom Shaughnessy said students will benefit from the University’s ability to capitalize on the developments and breakthroughs of an on-campus digital headquarters.
“We really believe that the library of the future is going to be a digital library,” Shaughnessy said.
One of the largest structural changes in store for the libraries is the construction of the Minnesota Libraries Access Center, a three-story, 75,000 square-foot building atop two underground storage caverns on the West Bank, slated for completion in November 1999.
One cavern will bring together the University’s archives and special collections, which are currently spread throughout campus libraries. The other will serve as a storage area to help preserve materials that are rarely removed from the library.
“It’s a very complicated building,” said Donald Kelsey, library facilities planning officer.
University-wide building renovations include restoring Walter Library. Walter’s education and psychology reference section will temporarily reside in Wilson Library while the construction is completed.
To acquaint students with the library system, the libraries will host the third annual “Library Welcomes U” orientation event on Oct. 1. The event will feature a book raffle, treats and library usage information.