WSU News

Survey: Library users say yes to facility, services

Librarians with library user
 
Lauren Eberhart, who just completed her Ph.D. at WSU, is flanked by librarians
Steve Borrelli and Vicki Croft at the Animal Health Library, where Eberhart did
much of her research. (Photo by Linda Weiford, WSU News)
 
 
PULLMAN, Wash. – In these days of Google, iPads and the Nook, how do Washington State University libraries continue to draw patrons? By reaching out to get their ideas and thinking outside the box.
 
But first, a little … um… history, even though it’s from only 14 years ago. That’s when Lara Cummings, a WSU librarian for 11 years, attended library school in South Carolina. She recalls a single line an instructor delivered during a lecture about the World Wide Web:
 
“He predicted that each and every month, the amount of information available online would double,” said Cummings. “I heard that and thought, ‘Yeah, right.’”
 
Well, yeah, he was right. Since 1999, technology has transformed libraries from communal repositories of books to places of computer modules where many books and journals are retrieved online.
 
‘Librarians at the gateway’
Fortunately, the role of librarian changed too. Today, Cummings and her colleagues are Internet experts and multimedia specialists, sharing information and helping patrons find it beyond the stacks of books, deep inside cyberspace.
 By condensing and tailoring the vast amount of online information so it suits each person’s needs, “We’re not librarians at the gate; we’re librarians at the gateway,” she said. “Trust me, Google won’t do what we can do.”
 
More solitude, more socialization
And while high-tech times have turned some academic libraries into impersonal digital hubs, that’s not so at WSU. Yes, patrons crave the immediacy of electronic resources for research and study. But they still want a central human location to read, write, whisper and just plain talk, according to feedback given by students, faculty and staff via surveys distributed in November.
 

Library lounge
Library quiet lounge
Spaces to socialize; spaces to study.
(Photos by WSU Libraries)
The surveying was an ongoing effort to find out what patrons across campus want as the digital age transforms how they learn, conduct research and interconnect with others, said librarian Steve Borrelli, who headed the team that administered the surveys.
 
“I’d say the WSU library is more of a human space than ever. People are coming here to socialize as well as learn,” he said.
 
And though patrons are using electronic resources and requesting more, “they like having a central location to hang out, study and interact,” he said.
 
Based on feedback given several years ago, WSU put three group-study rooms inside Holland-Terrell libraries to accommodate the increasing number of students collaborating on research projects. Donations were used to purchase new, comfortable furniture and two interactive whiteboards, said Borrelli.
 
Results of the most recent survey revealed that students want more quiet spaces as well, he explained: “Unlike a community college, WSU isn’t a commuter school where most students drive to campus for classes and leave afterward. Instead, many live in group housing on campus or nearby and retreat to the library’s quiet spaces to study.”
 
A win-win
Lauren Eberhart, who just completed her Ph.D. in veterinary microbiology and pathology, was a big student user of WSU’s Animal Health Library, she said; she visited to check out textbooks and read online journals. And so, last November, she was happy to fill out the survey that asked for feedback.
Eberhart was happier yet when she learned this month that her name had been selected to receive an iPad for filling out the survey.
 
Even in the digital world, there’s no reason why libraries can’t be an intellectual and even social heart of campus, said Eberhart in an interview at the Animal Health Library where she was given her new iPad by librarians Borrelli and Vicki Croft.
 
“The Internet isn’t a replacement for libraries,” she said, beaming. “Not at all. I see it as more of a supplement.”