Turning over a new page

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Whether you are a book connoisseur or you need in-depth research that the Internet cannot provide, the library is an essential portion of university life. Book lovers know that parting from books is similar to parting from an old, beloved friend, while researching students know the frustration of not being able to find the book they need to finish their project. Therefore, I was deeply concerned when I first heard about the Millar Library’s plan to weed out their book collection. A second look, however, convinced me that they have students’ best interests at heart.

“Over the last few years, the number of programs on campus has increased, but library space and funding for materials has remained static. We have demands for more student learning space, including student study rooms. We are working with the university to plan for more library space in the future to ensure we can continue to build the collections we need,” said Tom Raffensperger, assistant university librarian for public services.

Most libraries routinely analyze their inventory, but this will be the PSU library’s first time. Comprehensive analysis is a natural process for libraries to discard damaged copies and ensures that book collections satisfy current interests. For example, research concerning the Middle East significantly increased after 2001.

According to their Web site, the library would like to create unique and rare collections in accordance to the subjects being taught at PSU. They have partially achieved this by adding Dark Horse, a local comic book company, to the library. These comics bring a wider range of readers to the library as well as support the community.

Part of the library’s 2007-08 goals is the implementation of iTunesU, an educational program which allows students to virtually experience solar systems and other learning programs.

This engaging step to the future doesn’t mean that the library wants to begin tossing away books, however. Raffensperger said that librarians in a research library hate to see any books leave, but their first responsibility is to have the most academic collection possible for students. Each book will be carefully considered when deciding whether to keep it in the PSU library or not.

Duplicate copies and books that have not been checked out might be considered for possible removal if there would still be electronic access to them through Summit, according to Raffensperger. Summit is an alliance of more than 30 academic libraries in Oregon and Washington, through which students can obtain books.

The PSU library houses 1.4 million books while students can choose from eight million titles through Summit, receiving them within a few days. Through Summit, PSU is able to have a more diverse catalog by having access to books from all over. Increasing this diversity is another one of the PSU library’s positive goals for 2008.

Before any book is actually removed from the library, the librarian responsible for that particular subject area will asked to provide information whether they’ve seen the books being used by students or collecting dust on the shelves. Some books are not eligible to be checked out, but librarians are mostly aware of the books students are using within the library. Librarians also attend classes to integrate with the students and find out what books the students actually use and want.

The list of books selected for removal will be sent to the academic departments so that instructors can voice whether a particular title is essential or not. If the individual departments do not want the books, the library may sell them, give them to other libraries or donate them to non-profit organizations. Recycling would be the absolute last resort. One mustn’t forget that librarians usually choose their profession because they love books.

Humans are always resilient to change, and since this is the PSU library’s first time doing a comprehensive analysis of their inventory, there are going to be concerned with the ultimate results. Yet, it should be kept in mind that the main goal of this thorough process is to benefit students. The same books will be available through Summit, there will be a more worldly collection, there will be technological advancements and there will be more room for student study groups.

Through http://library.pdx.edu, you can submit general suggestions and comments directly to the library with optional contact information. If there is something that you think will make the library a better educational tool, then voice your opinion. After all, the library is there primarily for you.

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