Libraries adapt to technology trends
In an era of iTunes and Blackberries, libraries across the nation have had to acclimate to shifts in technology to meet consumer demands.
Such technological advances have spurred changes in the UH library system, which has enjoyed a constant rate of attendance, despite complaints by students that its Web site is not easy to use.
"Having so much of our information online has both made things easier and harder for people to locate the information they need," Michelle Boule, assistant librarian at the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library, said. "The current state of technology also means that, even in affluent areas, libraries must provide technology because it is the only way much of our information can be accessed by users."
For Boule, adapting to technological changes is a necessity. To provide adequate upkeep and to maximize accessibility, the libraries must streamline their resources by providing public computer access.
"Online articles and books are much easier to search in many different ways than when we used paper indexes for research," she said. "This does create a gap, though, for people who do not have adequate access to computers and other technologies."
As a result, libraries have needed to increase funding for computers, software and network maintenance in order to provide patrons with increased Internet and computer access, Boule said.
Boule said that in light of constantly changing adaptations, it is critical for a librarian to keep up with technological developments.
"I believe that part of a librarian’s job is to know the trends, and to be able to either help users navigate those trends or find innovative ways to get information to people," she said.
Library attendance has increased, Boule said, although some areas such as true reference – where students ask librarians reference questions in person – and book circulation have declined, due to the shift of information available online.
"Libraries that have not adapted to new trends or refused to provide new services to people have seen a drop in usage," she said. "The usage of the UH Libraries continues to go up because, in addition to quality resources, we provide spaces for students to be themselves and staff who work hard to provide customer service."
One of the most common complaints by students, however, has been the perceived inaccessibility of the library’s Web site, which some have alleged is counterintuitive. The Web site is undergoing a restructuring, however, that will adapt to the needs of students, Boule said.
"We are currently working through an exciting Web design process that will eventually correspond to some of the work that the University, as a whole, is undergoing," Boule said.