The I.D. Weeks Library is in the process of moving its material onto digital databases. While not necessarily replacing physical collections, the library is increasing its use of online journals, documents, textbooks and other works within the school’s database.
Though the University of South Dakota’s library has been working with digital content for quite some time, the online collections have only recently caught up with their hard copy relatives. Between 2008 and 2012, the library has seen a massive increase in electronic content under the watchful eye of Anne Cooper Moore, dean of libraries.
Dan Daily, interim dean of libraries and special interest archivist, explained the benefits of the online database as he reviewed a recently digitized issue of The Volante dating back to the early 1900s.
“The database provides 24-hour access for students which comes in handy when the library is closed for holidays or weekends. With the databases we’ve also seen an increase in online programs for students and faculty, giving them more options to choose from and more flexibility,” Daily said. “Students also have the freedom to print off documents they find on the database. Very similar to checking out a book, only you get to choose specifically which articles you want.”
The I.D. Weeks Library, along with the Wagner Library in Sioux Falls, purchases the rights to access these digital collections through outside sources such as the Oxford University Press. While it still costs money to obtain these electronic collections, the spending isn’t divided in so many aspects like it is when dealing with physical
“Both print and digital collections have their own specific budgets. With print you have to fund electric bills, storage for the collections, utility bills, and just maintaining the organization of the physical works on a day to day basis,” Daily said. “Digital collections are packaged with things like delivery costs or purchasing the rights to access these copies. Not as messy as the physical collections.”
As with any evolution in technology, a shiny new gadget tends to come with a price, mostly within the realm of job opportunities. However, the shift from physical to digital material has not affected USD librarians’ job security. Together the I.D. Weeks Library and Wagner Library are operated by 13 faculty librarians and 22 staff members. Graduate student Kalie Staples works with research and instructional services, but also holds a position at the reference desk in Weeks, serving as a mediator for students between the database and the printed collections.
“We’re kind of in a transition period right now. We are still purchasing printed content, but we are also moving forward with the digital content as well,” Staples said. “Nothing’s really different in terms of working in the library. Many courses actually require the students to make use of the databases, and so whenever a student isn’t sure how to operate the system or needs help finding a source, we do just as we would with locating a book on a shelf.”
One of the primary locations within the database is the Academic Research Premier, which contains about 3,600 journals.
“The ARP covers a wide range of disciplines and it’s generally a good starting point for research papers,” Daily said.
The I.D. Weeks Library will continue to progress into the use of online databases for USD students and expects even more growth with digital content in the future.