Need: An integrated library management system with the flexibility to meet the creativity of its users
Solution: Unicorn® Library Management System from Sirsi
Result: Improved service to end-users through integration of new technologies
The University of Alberta, in Edmonton, serves nearly 34,000 students in more than 200 undergraduate programs and 170 graduate programs. Opened in 1908 as a board-governed, public institution, the University of Alberta has grown to be one of Canada's foremost research-intensive universities. The University of Alberta's vision is "that in teaching, research, and community service, the University of Alberta will be indisputably recognized, nationally and internationally, as one of Canada's finest universities, and amongst a handful of the world's best," said Roderick D. Fraser, president.
Traditional library resources – books, journals, and newspapers – are now used in both print and electronic formats and are complemented by a wide range of new content and access technologies. Today's students are using mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) to access and manage information. "To maintain the relevance of the library, the library must know the demands and needs of its users, and determine both appropriate content and access mediums," said Karen Adams, University of Alberta's director of library services and information resources.
Changing needs of end-users
Roles for libraries and librarians are changing, yet they remain similar. The duty of the librarian is to provide resources and deliver access to those resources. Whether the material is an ancient textile or a download of a journal article, the essential sharing of information remains the same. "Librarians are the arbiters and disseminators of the world's knowledge and resources," said Adams. "Just because the media these resources require are changing does not change our approach to service. We must develop new approaches to deliver information and resources to end-users upon demand, as well as anticipate demand whenever possible."
Medical and health sciences faculty, clinicians, and a growing number of students who enter academia with their PDAs, expect to receive the same services and information available from commercial resources. To that end, librarians must learn what end-users want. "We've discovered that PDA users want the ability to download database search results to their PDA, licensed resources they may keep on their PDA, a library-maintained Web site of current resources, training sessions, and consultations," said Adams. "And whatever else you can give them!"
Changing roles for libraries
The University of Alberta is the second largest research library in Canada and is an automation services provider to the 20-member NEOS Consortium of Alberta government, academic, and medical libraries. Together with the NEOS Consortium partners, the University of Alberta offers nearly 5.1 million volumes, access to electronic databases and e-journals, library instruction, and in-person and electronic reference services.
"Roles for libraries include the loaning of PDA books, licensing of PDA resources, evaluation of PDA applications and content, training and consultation, providing wireless access, repurposing existing electronic content for accessing on PDAs, and developing forms for interlibrary loans, feedback and other library information," said Adams. "Libraries must utilize and support PDAs because, like the desktop computer, this tool is a tool of our end-users."
Cataloging changesAdams continued, "Our end-users just love the system. Plus, faculty and administration are taking an interest in the library as a key technical player for the role of technology in education for the future and helping find paths that lead to better technologies, resources, and learning for the next generation."
University of Alberta Libraries worked with their Sirsi Unicorn system and developed a way for end-users to checkout PDA books. The library packages the PDA book chip into special folders and holds them at the reserve desk for security. The PDA chips are far too small for the magnetic security strips currently used by the University. "We decided to catalog the PDA book as a MARC record and attach the item record to the bibliographic record," said Adams. "The PDA books are kept in the reserve book room with a loan period of 14 days, rather than two hours."
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