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Volume 68, Issue 118, Tuesday, March 25, 2003


Library, like students, embraces Digital Age

By Samira Zaidi
News Reporter

In a world where technology has taken over, the UH library is no exception.

From card catalog systems to an online database, the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library has transformed how students do their library business.

Students have taken advantage of the electronic resources and most seem to agree that easy access is a definite plus.

Freshman biology major Sana Ali uses the online resources and said they allow her to find materials without having to ask for a lot of help.

"The online catalog is more convenient and makes access to the resources at the library much easier," she said. "I am able to search and find books without having to leave my desk."

Jil Emery, director for electronic resources programs at the library, said most public universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, have gotten rid of public card catalog systems and upgraded to a Web-based catalog system.

"In the late i70s and early i80s, universities were moving their internal system, served out on dummy machines," she said. "Computer terminals in libraries began showing up next to the card catalog."

She also said improvements were happening behind the scenes and did not appear in public until the mid-1980s.

"In 1994, the library moved to a Web-based catalog system from terminal-based applications," Emery said.

Even though public card catalogues are essentially non-existent these days, some schools still have one.

"The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign still has theirs and at that campus, students do not check out books by themselves; the staff does it for them," Emery said.

The plan is to make UHis electronic catalogue and Web-based search system more integrated, including access to Web sites and electronic journals, Emery said.

Junior communication major Melanie Earles utilizes the electronic resources for research and also for renewing books or seeing when they are due.

"I use the online resources when I am at home and can see what is available at the library without having to leave home," she said. "Itis a lot faster and you can access anything from anywhere, (except for) actually getting the book."

With the advent of the World Wide Web, Emery said publishers are looking at moving from print-based production to Web-based production to cut costs.

"In the next 10 to 12 years, materials will be delivered electronically," she said. "Although publishers are still creating print journals, they are also developing staff and expertise to migrate those online."

Both Ali and Earles admit that because most of the resources are easily accessible, all the work can be done from the convenience of one's seat without having to ask for assistance.

Emery noted that the purpose of the reference desk will shift and it will become a support group for online resources, not just for help in searching for a book or journal.

"We are also looking at starting a virtual reference system that will offer services online," Emery said.

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