Libraries get technological touch

The Business/School of Public and Environmental Affairs Information Commons will close for renovations at 5 p.m. Dec. 23 and reopen at the end of August 2010.

The renovated library will feature a cafe, 16 group study areas, 46 public work computer stations and 40 large screen monitor computers. It will have new carpet, new furniture and better lighting.

“It’ll be brighter in here,” said Steven Sowell, head of the Business/SPEA Information Commons.

But the library will be missing something among the rows of tables and computers – physical books.

There is a dramatic decrease in paper documents at this Information Commons, particularly journals, Sowell said.

The library will keep a core collection of 35,000 books as well as IU employees moved about 65,000 books to IU’s Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility on North Range Road to make study space.

Sowell said he’s buying fewer paper books and more electronic books, mostly electronic reference works and manuals.

The library is trying to make better places for students, both as individuals and as groups, to work in. Teachers in the Kelley School of Business often assign group projects, he said.

“Faculty are teaching in new ways; students are learning in different ways,” Sowell said.

Fewer paper books and more study space is a trend in libraries across campus.
The libraries are responding to student’s needs and re-imagining what libraries could be, said Eric Bartheld, communications director for IU Libraries.

“We are definitely rethinking the role of branch libraries,” Bartheld said.

The Information Commons in the Herman B Wells Library opened in fall 2003. The West Tower of the Wells Library went from about 100,000 volumes to about 20,000 to create study space, said Diane Dallis, Associate Dean for Library Academic Services.

The journalism library removed all its books in summer 2007, Bartheld said, and now has several computer and study stations. The Indiana Memorial Union, while not a library, followed the trend and opened its Student Technology Center in September.

Sowell said other libraries across campus will follow suit as funds become available.

Factors besides money also go into the decision to become more digital, Dallis said.
The Fine Arts Library does not have many books online for reasons of practicality, so it would be difficult for them to change, she said.

Other disciplines, such as sciences, have been aggressive in booking journals and documents online.

It’s also a national trend of libraries changing to meet the needs of the day. More and more materials which students and faculty want are available online, Bartheld said.

But some aren’t convinced moving books and creating more study space is a good thing.

“You’ve got to know what you want,” said journalism Professor David Weaver.

Weaver said many books aren’t available online because of copyright issues. Besides, he said he liked being able to go to the journalism library and look through students’ theses. He said people could see or uncover things they didn’t expect while roaming through the shelves. Now, a lot of those books are in the auxiliary library. 

“It’s a shame,” he said.

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