Technology Spurs Transformation of Academic Libraries

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Long

Remember the reserve book room? It was part of the college library and contained the books and articles your professors wanted you to read for their courses. You signed out the materials for an hour or two and usually were required to stay in the library while you read and took notes. If you were lucky, the items you wanted to read were available and not being read by some other student. The reserve book room was for most of us a frustrating experience.

The Main Library at Northwestern University pioneered automating the reserve book room in 1994. Basically, here's how it works. Library staff members receive faculty requests for items to be put on reserve. It could be a book, a journal article, homework, course syllabi, past exams, music on a CD or a film clip. Students can access this material from any computer through the N.U. Web site. While this service is available only to N.U. students, if you would like to see an example of an academic library's Web page, visit

Many other academic institutions have set up similar operations and it's easy to see that this is the wave of the future. If every library attached to an academic institution did this, would we lose the college or university library as we remember it? The answer is yes and no. Remember that library staff made this possible with materials utilizing sophisticated computer equipment and software.

But academic libraries are irrevocably changed today from the library of even 10 years ago. …