If you ask someone in their 30s or older what libraries were like when they were children, you will likely hear stories of aisles of musty books, seemingly endless card catalogs, shushing librarians and stamped book check out cards.
Todays library patrons have a much different experience when visiting the library. Instead of a musty card catalog, they search for books using a Web-based system. Rather than a library staff person stamping a card from a pocket in the book with a patrons due date, they now scan a barcode to check materials out to patrons. Most libraries, including those at New Mexico State University, have self-check out, using a barcode scanner and NMSU Aggie ID or guest borrower card.
The digital revolution has changed many things about libraries from their design and layout to the technology expertise required of their staff. There are now millions of volumes available with the click of a mouse. NMSU librarians are even available to help patrons who are not physically at the library, through the use of live chat, text message or email using the Ask Us icon on the librarys Web page.
Technology provides so many opportunities for library users to get help from a librarian, says Tammy Powers, director of Doña Ana Community College Library Services. You can chat with us online, you can send a text from your phone, and if you really want to, you can stop in and see us. All of the staff would agree; there is nothing more satisfying than a student visiting us, describing their research needs and leaving moments later with information that will complete their assignment.
Ive been through several technological shifts in libraries, says Elizabeth Titus, dean of the NMSU Library. We acquire content, we want to preserve that content, and we want to make it accessible. That has always been the fundamental role of the library. We tend not to create the technologies, but to adapt them for conducting business in libraries, whatever that business may be.
One of the first changes someone who hasnt visited a library on campus in about 20 years might notice is the absence of a card catalog. Norice Lee, associate dean and longtime NMSU librarian, said that the NMSU card catalog, which used to reside on the first floor of Branson Library, took up most of the main aisle walkway.
In the late 1980s, we moved from the card catalog to an online catalog, Lee says. You were essentially the human being doing the searching with a card catalog. All of that information went online.
Some patrons say they still miss the card catalog, though searching for information is easier now.
The online catalog is really great now, because not only can you search the holdings that we have on our campus, but you may also search all four NMSU community college holdings, Lee says.
We used to have more than 6,000 serial, or journal, print titles, Lee says. The serials department was a huge department back then, and we checked every single issue in each day on a Kardex card. Everything was manual. Now, all of this is performed electronically. Now, the majority of our journal titles are in electronic format and accessible online.
The NMSU libraries strive to support the academic programs and the researchers, Lee said. NMSU researchers often need access to information beyond what the library owns locally. In these cases, student and faculty researchers can use the Request It! library service to obtain the needed information. Requests are submitted by the researcher online and are facilitated by library staff. In some cases the items are available to them, at their desktop, frequently in a matter of hours.
If a researcher at the Alamogordo campus needs an item from Carlsbad, or a student on the Las Cruces campus needs something from DACC, the request is submitted online and handled quickly.
NMSU Alumni Association members also are able to check out up to 10 items per visit to one of the NMSU libraries, for 21 days at a time, with two renewals possible. Alumni must present a current NMSU Alumni Association ID card to the Library Circulation Desk to be added to the library system. This process must be repeated each time the Alumni Association ID card is renewed.
Carol Boyse is the NMSU Librarys systems department head.
There are certainly more computers in libraries now than 20 years ago, she says.
Though her job existed two decades ago, it has changed. She and her staff adapt to new technologies as they arrive. For instance, there are now scanners in the library, where students, rather than using a photocopier, can scan their documents and save them to a flash drive or send via email.
She and her staff of three manages the librarys Web pages, software programs, hardware and servers.
The library still maintains a microfiche and microfilm collection, along with archival, historical document and unique collections. Digitization of these collections, however, has made them available to a much wider audience, according to Titus, and searchable.
We are in the process of scanning all of the Extension publications from the 1800s to current now, Titus says. We are digitizing all of the content and it will be searchable. This is the history of agriculture in the state and now the information will be globally accessible.
We preserve the content and make it available, whether its on clay tablets or in the online catalog thats what we do and will continue to do. What tomorrow holds, we dont know, but well still be doing it, whatever it is, Lee says.
The NMSU Library offers an electronic bookplate program to honor loved ones, while building the library collection. Bookplates appear in the online NMSU Library Catalog and are available at different price levels. Visit lib.nmsu.edu/giving/honor.shtml to download the application form. For more information contact Kristina Martinez at 575-646-1508.