by Helen Josephine, Silicon Valley Chapter, Science-Technology and Engineering Divisions
A report on the new “bookless engineering library” was included in “Morning Edition” on NPR in July 2010. After this report aired, library and literary blogs quickly began discussing the future and fate of libraries in the digital age—is it the wave of the future or the end of the world as we know it? We find that some of our student and faculty users prefer digital content to print, while others do not. The digital library is not the end of the book and print collections, but the beginning of something new and exciting.
After four years of planning, the new Engineering Library at Stanford University opened on August 9, 2010. The vision document for the new library, SEQ2 Library Vision: The Information Collaboratory informed not only the physical design of the new facility but the staffing, collection and service models as well. In addition to the challenge to replace the physical collection with digital content, three themes for the new library were called out in this document: high-touch human contact, mediation and subject expertise and mutability or continuous change and experimentation.
To achieve our goal of becoming a largely bookless library with access to all of the online resources required by one of the premier schools of Engineering in the world, the constant questions we asked of our vendors were—can we get it online?, can it be flexible?, can it be self-service? We anticipate that even more innovative information resources and devices will be available to us as we continue to evolve and experiment with new technologies, new services and new vendors.
One current experiment is our e-reader program, a combination of circulating e-readers and tethered e-readers (10 Kindle, 8 Sony Touch,1 Nook,1 iPad) with content selected by librarians. In addition to the content we have selected and purchased for the e-readers, we are also testing the ability to load and read content that we have licensed from e-book vendors that allow for unlimited content download. Student feedback on the project has been positive and the e-readers are always checked-out. The e-reader program is part of our mission to understand the information needs of the current and future students and to experiment with new technologies.
Our physical space is one-third the size of our former library, but the open floor plan of the new library and the foldable, stackable, moveable furniture allows multiple configurations within our 6,000 sq ft. space. Collaborative work areas for groups of 4 or more with tables pushed together, individual work at tables near the windows, as well as impromptu classroom seating for groups as large as 50 are all feasible. The technology in the library includes a 60”digital bulletin board for announcements of library events and information plus School of Engineering events and student projects, a rolling display cart housing a 60” monitor with touch capability, an information kiosk using a 23” touch screen computer for basic library information and a 3M RFID system for book self-check out and security.
When you define your library as a place for innovation and experimentation with information technology and digital content, the possible roles for librarians are limitless and the types of services offered are dynamic and ever-changing. This is a true definition of “future-ready.”
Helen Josephine is Head of the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Library (http://lib.stanford.edu/englib), part of the Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center at Stanford University. She is a past-president of the Silicon Valley chapter of SLA and has been a member of SLA since 1999. She has also been active in many regional, state and national library groups, including the Arizona Online Users Group, California Academic and Research Libraries, and ALA.