Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Taking (or Is That "Tech"ing) Back the Future

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Taking (or Is That "Tech"ing) Back the Future

Article excerpt

Technology has ushered itself into our culture without borders or boundaries. Students and educators have fallen victim to the notion of "information at your fingertips" and "easy access" while taking many things for granted. In the past few years, there have been several articles written about the use of textbooks in the academic library. Most of the articles that I have read have dealt with the ethical issues of charging and discharging textbooks in the academic library. However, in our library, not only are we dealing with this ethical conundrum, but we are also dealing with another, more recent dilemma concerning the university's awareness and use of the library's resources. The university community including students, faculty, and staff are not fully taking advantage of the library's services that are at their disposal. Is it because the university community does not know about the resources, or is it because they have become so coddled in our society by technology that they take it for granted?

Some researchers call it the demise of cultural literacy!

Coddle Culture

I serve as information commons/access services coordinator at the Winston-Salem State University's C.G. O'Kelly Library. It has become a major problem for us when students come to the service desk to check out a textbook but they don't know the title. Some students do not even know the call number of their book. Usually, when you do not know the title or call number of the book, you probably are not going to be familiar with the author of the book either. A larger, more looming problem on the rise is perhaps the birth of technology spoiling and coddling our patrons and us, which I will discuss later in this piece. Again, the smaller issue deals with students asking for books that they do not have any information about. But, we should know what they are looking for anyway, because "we work in the library." Some days we have lines that are snake-like because students lack the knowledge about the textbook we are supposed to be locating. I have heard some of the most, for lack of a better word, dumbfounding statements in trying to describe a textbook they need: "I think it's blue." "Maybe it's green." "It's about this big, and this high!" "You don't remember? You got it for me yesterday!" "Let me come back there, I'll find it!"

At one point, we developed a marketing procedure that we thought would fix the problem. We created fliers and infomercials that clearly stated that we needed student school IDs and validated school numbers to check out books. We also noted that the student needed to supply us with the title, call number, or author of the book they needed to help us retrieve it quickly. Lastly, we stated that we could not locate or retrieve their textbook by its height, size, weight, nor color! We also posted several signs throughout the library and at the textbook desk.

Our Procedures for Discharging or Charging Books to an Account

* Please have school ID and your validated banner #.

* Supply us with the correct name of the textbook.

* Or correct call number.

* Or author of the book.

* We CANNOT locate books by their color, sorry!

Despite the signs, despite the verbal reminders, this continued to be a problem. What to do? One method in dealing with the madness was to use the bookstore webpage. We wanted to take advantage of the technical aspects in our library to help solve the problem. On our university's website, we have the availability to access the bookstore webpage. Thankfully, it gives students the option to locate textbooks by their department, course, and section.

Students who know their course name and number are able to inform us of the correct information about the textbook they want to check out. Issue resolved right? Wrong! It seems as if they didn't get enough joy out of terrorizing us the first time. The new dilemma involves students forgetting, or not concerned with knowing, the course numbers and department names of their respective classes. …

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