Modernized Libraries Embrace Technology
Byline: Michelle Rothman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
University libraries are no longer just stuffy old buildings offering rows of books, partitioned desks and total silence. They have moved beyond those traditional services, creating a whole new image.
Now they are electronic books, online databases and group study rooms. They are movable furniture, coffee shops and e-mail. They are software, plasma screens and editing equipment.
They have moved into the 21st century, where flexibility is key.
Technology has helped library staffs revamp services and the ways students access them. Although some students still pull dusty hardcover books from library shelves, students increasingly are researching through the libraries' Web sites, says Mark Jacobs, associate university librarian at Georgetown University.
Libraries often provide students with access to databases of journal and newspaper articles, Mr. Jacobs says. Sometimes even complete books can be downloaded from a library's Web site, although their length makes them more difficult to read than an article, he says.
Accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection, these resources are a dream come true for busy students and those who shudder at the thought of setting foot inside the library.
"Today's students will change a research topic if it means not having to give up the use of electronic resources," says Mike Neuman, interim associate university librarian at Georgetown. "They have come to prefer them."
Cora Weissbourd, a sophomore comparative literature major at Georgetown, says she frequently uses a database of journal articles for research papers.
"You don't actually have to go to the library; you can just go through its Web site," she exclaims, marveling at the technology. "It is really helpful. That is great. It's saved my life."
By providing online resources, university libraries ensure that students have a place to go for reliable information, says Patty MacDonald, head of reference services at Loyola Notre Dame Library, which serves Loyola College and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore.
"They might go to the Web first, instead of a book," Ms. MacDonald says. "Part of our mission is to show them where the really good information that we pay for is available. It's better than just using a Web site, where you don't know the reliability of the information or whether or not it's up to date."
The Internet cannot replace having a library in which to study, however, Miss Weissbourd says.
When she needed to concentrate on studying for exams last year, she headed to Georgetown's main undergraduate library, Lauinger Memorial Library.
"I just had to get out of the room," she says. "When I need somewhere really, really quiet, I go there. There's no distractions."
Like Miss Weissbourd, Michael Sellitto, a senior political science major at Loyola College, fled to the campus library during his sophomore year when distractions in his dorm room made studying for an English final exam difficult. …