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Information, Please

The University Library's robot known as ORCA

The University Library’s Online Remote Collections Access (ORCA) system maximizes space for other library services and study areas.

Who needs a library when you can look up anything on the Web?

Actually, people still do, which is why the Cal State Long Beach University Library is thriving and evolving.

“The library as we know it has been redefined. It most definitely is the heart and soul of the campus—the place where students can exchange ideas and organize groups in collaborative study areas; the new center where students can utilize technology to help them on their academic journey while enjoying their favorite beverage from the library’s very own coffee shop,” said library Dean Roman Kochan.

“Students not only want to find a book, they’d like to know if we have an e-book,” added library Associate Dean Tracey Mayfield. “Is it available on their iPad or on a Kindle? Students want to use books in ways that differ vastly from the traditional use of print materials.”

Today, the library contains more than 1,110,000 volumes, 79,000 electronic journals, 369,000 e-books, plus approximately 200 online databases of reference information, many with full texts of articles.

Not only do they organize information, “We must help the casual visitor unfamiliar with us find what they need and be able to use it,” Mayfield said. “It is not just having the databases that is important. It is important that everybody understands what they are and how to use them.”

Moreover, as tenured faculty, they teach information literacy through workshops and classroom presentations.

“It is meant to be a one-stop shop,” she continued. “Some of the databases that have a broad appeal across all 23 CSU campuses (called the Electronic Core Collection) are subsidized in part by the Office of the Chancellor. Librarians use the databases to help students and faculty find current articles and other information for their research topics. This is a great place to start.”

Scholarship @ The Beach, once known as Content Pro IRX, is the digital repository system launching this fall at CSULB that will allow the world to tap into the university archives and special collections as well as materials and data created by CSULB faculty. “This is original scholarship produced at CSULB,” Mayfield said. “This is all accessible through the open Web.”

CSULB also is a member of the Chancellor’s Office Libraries of the Future Task Force (LOFT) that is investigating ways for CSU campus libraries to share resources.

“Right now, we are focusing on the print collections at six Los Angeles basin campuses. We are looking at how we select, store, use and de-select our print monograph collections,” Mayfield explained. Unlike larger research universities, “We have finite amounts of space. We don’t have the luxury of keeping items forever.”

Part of LOFT involved an unprecedented look at CSULB’s entire journal collection and its usage. “The first LOFT report to the CSU presidents was presented in February and our conclusions were that different disciplines use materials differently,” she said, noting that some users prefer print items while others want online information.

Making room for other building uses led the library to construct a four-story robotic book retrieval system called ORCA (Online Remote Collections Access). Quiet study areas remain important, but now there are more group discussion tables and small meeting rooms. And yes, users can bring drinks from the lobby Starbucks. The main floor also contains a student computer lab and electronic classroom funded by alumnus Bob Spidell and his wife, Janet.

Mayfield praised the library’s relationship with Academic Technology Services, such as testing new software versions across multiple operating systems and platforms. “There is a lot that goes into making information available. Having said that, our role is to make information available in the format that our patrons want.”

And graduation doesn’t mean the end of using the library.

“We have a saying in Library Land,” Mayfield laughed. “We don’t think that learning stops when you get your degree. Learning is lifelong for a citizen of the world. What we want to offer at the University Library is to offer as many services and amenities as we can to our alumni. When alumni get out into the world and find they have to deliver their first technical report, they have somewhere to do it. We welcome back alumni.”

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