Thursday, February 21, 2013

Onward, Through the Information Fog?

The Lake Land College Library,  like most academic libraries, has a nice selection of databases that provide access to a lot of information. From peer-reviewed academic journals to popular magazines to newspapers and newsletters, and from high-end subject encyclopedias to resume-writing guides and test-preparation books, we have it.  All told, probably 25,000 periodicals of one stripe or another and another 1250 online book titles. They are there, not quite 24/7/365 (there are always maintenance periods when one service or another is down), and they are accessible from just about anywhere our students, faculty, and staff are (as long as they have an internet connection).

When we offer library instruction, and when we talk to our patrons one-on-one, we do our best to make sure that they know that these resources exist. More to the point, they are there to make sure that our students have plenty of high-quality, legitimate academic sources available to support their research needs. And they are used - at least the statistics that we can access tell us how many full-text articles  are retrieved and how many searches are conducted each month.

Are we satisfied with that? NO. To that end, we will soon be featuring a new service on our website  (truth be told, it is there already, just a little hidden)  that can search across the contents of many - but not all - of our databases at once in much the same way as Google searches the open Internet. The new service, called Summon, is an attempt to make it even easier to access this information while giving our patrons an experience that is more like searching Google. Only instead of millions of results of questionable quality, users can search a far more quality-controlled set of resources. It should be ready for prime time quite soon now.

Yet this is not without its shortcomings. By offering services like Summon, do we do a disservice to our users by not trying to teach them how to use the individual services and databases that make up our electronic resources? We are an academic institution, and teaching - particularly the skills we librarians call information literacy - should be as much a part of a student's education here as their Comp, Speech, or Math classes. Some would argue that our professional responsibility is to avoid "shortcuts" and teach the searching and critical-thinking skills that can be applied across a variety of information sources throughout a person's lifetime. Others will say, not without justification, the oft-quoted adage that "librarians like to search - patrons like to find", and that anything we can do to make our resources more accessible to as many of our users as possible is a GOOD THING.

I don't believe that it needs to be a black and white dichotomy; there is room for both approaches. I believe that students should receive a foundation of knowledge that prepares them to be good searchers and to understand what they are seeing and how to evaluate its appropriateness and quality. I believe that should apply across ALL disciplines. And it is a plain fact that, as a patron's research needs become more specialized, they should understand how to use the major tools in their subject area. Someone writing a paper on bipolar disorder should be searching in Psych Articles, not Bloom's Literary Reference. And someone needing information on automobile repair would be best served by using Automobile Repair Reference Center, not the Oxford English Dictionary. At the same time, given that most students at the freshman and sophomore level are still writing on general topics for many of their classes, and our ultimate goal is to get them to be able to access and utilize the Library's resources, then it becomes more difficult to justify forcing students to jump through OUR particular set of hoops to obtain what they are looking for.  We have 40+ databases, with probably 15 different searching interfaces. Is it reasonable to demand that students learn every one of these to meet their basic information needs? How many is enough, and how many is too much?

So onward we go, moving forward in a new direction. Is it the right direction? Time will tell. The only certainty in the world is that nothing is certain. Just keep swimming...

Thursday, February 7, 2013


The Lake Land College Library will be switching to a new catalog and automation system in April, and this is going to cause some disruptions to services to students, faculty, and staff. This will affect access to our physical library materials as well as access to materials from other libraries.

When the move to the new system (which will be called SHARE) is complete, we will be able to provide access to over 4 times the number of items presently available through the current catalog (LINC).

This will NOT affect access to all of our online library services (databases, Library web site, etc.) that provide access to over 25,000 full-text journals and over 1,000 reference books.

The timeline for the changeover from LINC to SHARE will be as follows:

March 15:             Holds will be turned off in LINC – patrons will not be able to place requests after the 14th until the new system comes up;

March 22:             ALL unfilled holds in the system will be cancelled, as they can not be migrated over to SHARE - we are recommending that ALL library users check their accounts and print a list of their holds that they will want to request again on or before the 21st;

March 22-April 8: The LINC catalog will be in search-only mode. You will be able to search for items but not to request them in LINC. Shelf status – whether an item is on the shelf or not – may no longer be accurate;
April 1 – April 8: IMPORTANT NOTE: ALL USERS will have to have their library barcode present to check out materials. We will NOT be able to search our old system to look up patron information during this time, so if you do not have your ID with your library barcode, we will not be able to check out to you. We will not be able to add new users to the system at this time either, so if you do not already have a library card, please bring in your ID card and we will get you set up with your own account.

April 9 – SHARE goes live!

We will be trying to accommodate requests for materials from other libraries to the best of our ability during this time. The window from April 1-April 8 will be a real challenge to obtain items as most of our system libraries will be trying to keep as much of their local collections in house during that time as possible.

We apologize for the inconvenience this will cause, and appreciate your patience as we are improving our system to better serve your information needs!