Assumptions about the Science Library

26 July 1993

The Library's mandate is to support research and teaching by providing access to the information that people need in order to do their work. This information is now often to be found outside the Library's physical walls, and librarians are increasingly called upon to know how to find and access resources that did not exist a decade ago, to combine traditional forms and sources of information with electronic forms, and to reveal the mysteries of knowledge-finding to library users. Librarians teach as well as organize and burrow, and these three facets of the librarian's craft have equal salience in small liberal arts institutions. A collection reorganization of the sort occasioned by construction of a new library presents opportunities to redefine the contexts in which information is stored and accessed, and to change the way library services are perceived and valued.

The Science Library must be planned and organized and developed primarily to support the anticipated directions of new growth of science teaching at W&L. The most obvious frontier in this new growth is the great influence of the computer upon science research and teaching; the existing science buildings predate the computer era, and the existing science libraries have even less to do with the computer revolution than the buildings they are in. Most faculty in the sciences are in relatively early stages of their own discovery of the influence of the computer on their own specialties, and few have any reason to take the broad view beyond their own disciplines, and to think in terms of the influence upon the sciences generally; this broad view is, however, the appropriate perspective of a librarian.

With each passing year in all disciplines more material and more functions will be accessible in electronic form, and it will be necessary to teach about, support, and integrate electronic access into every aspect of reference services --including searching, ILL, e-mail, and transfer of text (and, soon, non-text) files. The Science Library must also be proactively involved in current awareness on behalf of faculty and students --on a much more active basis than permitted by the traditional model of the library as the university's or department's repository of recorded knowledge. The library is a gateway that opens out to a global information environment which is both increasingly interdisciplinary and growing at an unprecedented rate.

The specific Science Library considerations:

RELATION TO SCIENCE CURRICULUM: In some Science fields (notably in Chemistry, Geology and Physics) the Library has played a very minor role in classroom teaching; the branch libraries have functioned as bookrooms rather than as sources of interactive information and assistance with research tasks, and few requests for reference assistance and database searches come from the above-named departments. The Science Library provides an opportunity to change this habit and perception, to provide services that are CENTRAL to the enterprises of students and faculty in the several sciences, to encourage and support cross-disciplinary interests among students and faculty, and to be the cutting (bleeding?) edge of an information-access revolution that students who go on to further study MUST be better prepared for. Current awareness services are an important part of this; the Science Librarian needs to have fingers on the pulse of current research of faculty (and should attend colloquia) AND developments in periodical literatures that are central and adjacent to faculty interests. Most faculty are not USED to thinking of librarians as significant adjuncts to their work, so the case for usefulness needs to be made and re-made by creative use of opportunities, especially in bibliographic instruction within class contexts, and through active library support for faculty and student research ("...research has become a teaching device", as the Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates report puts it).

STAFFING/HOURS: Dramatis personae: Science Librarian, daytime desk person, students to cover the desk from 5-12. Weekend service probably needs to be more than just Sunday evening, even with card access for science majors and faculty. The daytime desk person would share the desk time with the Science Librarian. A student worker schedule of 5-12 M-Th, 12-5 Sa and 12-12 Su adds to 45 student hours.

The Science Librarian would be primarily responsible for (a) mediated searching for faculty and students, (b) reference assistance and consulting, (c) bibliographic instruction (principally in information access, and spanning the spectrum of media, but also including some aspects of hardware and software skills), (d) collection development (which should be systematic and in consultation with disciplinary faculty, more than is now the case), and (e) current awareness. Some nights per week the Science Librarian should be available for Reference help, perhaps 3 peak hours on each of two nights (e.g., 7-10 on Tu and Th); the Science Librarian would participate in the Main Reference schedule at least as part of the Sunday rotation --which adds up to an unconventional schedule for this individual.

The daytime desk person would handle most of the circulation, reshelving, periodical organization, and FAX transactions, but would also assist with reference and patron searching (support for such services as FirstSearch, etc.).

Student workers would handle Reserves and circulation in the evenings and provide some level of reference and searching assistance.

       		?what does the workroom get used for?  
			processing periodicals
			book trucks
             		reserves and videotapes
             		FAX and document delivery
             		online searching and its documentation 
                        (*PC, laser printer) 
			VCR/monitor storage
			escape space for desk person
       		?what are the important traffic patterns? 
             		in and out of Librarian's office
             		in and out of workroom
             		between desk and reference collection
       		?what functions are centered on the Desk? 
             		circulation (*PRESUMABLY an Annie terminal)
             		reference help
             		reference consultation on *PC (needs to be 
				able to swivel)
                    		(this means that the 
                                desk needs both PC and terminal)
       		?where are photocopying facilities? 
             		minimally, on the middle floor and on the floor with 
             		SHOULD be coin as well as card
             		SHOULD permit reduction copying
       		?display space?
             		new books
             		current awareness/science news
       		?paper indexes?
             		need convenient counter/table space, near *LAN PC 
                        (combined searches, downloading of screens)
USE OF COLLECTION: Increasing use of primary scientific literature will continue --and this means that demands for searching and photocopying and document delivery will increase; print reference tools, including indexes, will be less and less significant in the daily work of science students as electronic tools become more and more powerful and inclusive; monograph circulation will probably decline proportionately (it's now generally low in Q-T, for different reasons in different sciences), though this is likely to be less true for Psych and Biology, which have substantial monographic literatures. Unknown: to what degree will 'general science' reading increase because of easy accessibility and current-awareness efforts of the Librarian? The past tendency has been for current general interest science books to disappear pretty quickly to places (stacks, Physics Library) where they aren't in the public eye --and they don't circulate much if they aren't encountered. A possibility for a science analog of the McNaughtons? A sci-fi collection?

SEARCHES: We seem to be well on our way to a model in which patrons will use University Computing facilities (Liberty, Gopher) and tape-mounted databases to do more of their own searching, particularly in the early stages of research; mediated searches (DIALOG, etc) will thus be more focused and probably fewer. An increasing proportion of Reference work will be advising on search strategies, often in over-the-shoulder mode at the Reference Desk PC, on an ANNIE terminal, or on a patron's laptop. It would be VERY useful to be able to take control of a given PC from the Desk or the Office, using something akin to the software Flash has that we might have used to make CD-ROMs accessible over the LAN. That sort of access to the PCs on the Science LAN, so that phone consultations could be made interactive, would be an enormous advantage. Is it also possible to tie the connection ports at carrels to the LAN, or are they by definition already part of it?

DATABASES: It is likely that science departments will wish for or demand access to databases that accomplish tasks beyond those of the general-level searching provided by UMI and FirstSearch periodical databases. Mediated searching in DIALOG could handle most of this, but doesn't permit the sort of end-user browsing that ISI's Current Contents offered when it was accessible through Utah State. I anticipate that there will be greater demand for searches in Science Citation Index as research assumes a more central role in science teaching, but DIALOG will probably remain the most efficient way to meet this need. In addition to indexing services, vastly more repositories of full text, visual and data files will be accessible via the Internet, and some will be fee-based (as electronic publishing emerges from its infancy); we may anticipate a steady growth in demand for access to these resources --which will be seen as extensions of library holdings just as ILL and database searching now are, and as Lexis/Nexis access is about to become.

ILL: I assume that patrons will generally make requests by filling out an electronic ILL order form, and that there will be a single ILL coordinator who submits requests via OCLC and manages and tracks loans; book loans (which will be relatively few) would continue to move from the ILL office through the Main circulation desk, but FAX transmission for Science ILLs would be routed to a FAX machine in the Science Library (and presumably FAX transmissions from W&L to ILL borrowers that use Science Library materials would be sent from the Science Library FAX machine). Science document delivery from other sources would also be routed through the Science Library FAX machine, unless individual departments had their own FAX capabilities, and the Science Library would thus be a vital link in timely delivery of information (but note the discussion of e-mail FAX under HARDWARE, below).

RESERVES: It's difficult to gauge how much Reserve traffic the Science Library will see, but my assumption is that it will be considerably more than the amount of Science departments traffic that now goes through the Main Library circ desk, because it will be much more convenient for all, and because the Science Library will be perceived as part of the space of science departments (as the Leyburn Library emphatically is not). It may well be that the MAIN activity of Science circulation will be Reserves transactions (cf. Oberlin circulation statistics [Ricker 1992]), especially once an automated checkout system becomes practical for monographs. This may affect demand for hours of Desk staffing. We can also anticipate increased circulation of software, which would be held behind the Desk, probably on a 2-hour reserve basis.

JOURNALS: The volume of bound journals to be housed in the Science Library is prodigious, and in fact VERY little use is made of material older than 5 years. Back issues are intellectual ballast: they NEED to be there as definers of the territory, even if they are all but useless. In many cases there is no modern indexing for the journals, so what's in them is all but unrecoverable anyway. The sciences are mostly concentrated on their advancing frontiers, and this is particularly true of younger faculty members anyway. The inertia of 'old' ways of doing things (teaching, practising a particular science, conceptualizing research) resides with men who will be retiring soon, and their replacements will REQUIRE a different array of resources. We don't have a choice about the Physics journals or Chem Abstracts or Beilstein --they're thick wallpaper, but obligatory. The ideal thing for the old stuff would be to have it on microfilm; given the financial impossibility of that, the next-best solution would be some storage that was visitable but not in the way, with ten years of the most recent back issues readily available. Very occasionally that would be inconvenient, but mostly it would clear the air and perhaps even contribute to more use of the newer resources (cf. Williams 1992, citing Vassar and Yale practise).

VIDEO: I anticipate that the visual revolution in education will make itself felt more and more; in 5 years I expect to see a lot of the sorts of video now on tape accessible via computer channels, and thus an overall decline in the proportion that is videotape-based. Still, videotape will remain an economical and convenient distribution medium, and we'll need to provide viewing facilities --both for individuals and in some of the group study rooms as well. I don't know the economics of a central broadcasting facility --I suspect prohibitively expensive, so that portable VCRs and TV monitors will remain the means of delivery. This probably means that at least one VCR/monitor cart will reside in the workroom, to be used by signup in group study rooms, and that we will need at least one single-person video carrel near the Desk.

MICROFORMS: Science will certainly be the most-used microfilm, but FAX delivery will probably be competitive for other materials that we could consider holding on film. A single reader-printer would probably be plenty. There's now a huge volume of sci-tech stuff on fiche, but I don't think it's likely to have much demand/usage at W&L, and I anticipate that document delivery (in combination with improved/augmented indexing) will displace fiche as a distribution medium.

CD-ROM: There may be databases that it is most practical/economical to have on CD-ROM, but at present it looks like most of what W&L students and faculty need can be better handled by the combination of ANNIE- and Gopher-accessible databases and resort to DIALOG for some (mediated) searches. I don't see that the expense of multiple-access CD-ROM (with a changer/tower, etc.) is worthwhile. PsychLit may be an exception, unless it becomes available via FirstSearch or some other online vendor.

STUDENT ACTIVITY: Group and individual activities will continue to develop away from the model of library-as-study-hall; group study, consultation and collaborative projects are increasingly common in the sciences, and the small-group rooms will be in demand (and MUST have multiple network capability! --more than one plug in the wall), and considerable activity will migrate to electronic communication --taking the form of laptop computers plugged into the network, remote logins from dormitory rooms, e-mail communication with peers and with faculty, local and distant, and electronic interaction with librarians.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC INSTRUCTION: Once paper- and local-collection based, instruction has perforce moved in the direction of use of tools to access remote information. This cannot help but continue and intensify. The ambit of library instruction must include research tools of particular disciplines (viz: Chemical Abstracts, eventually) and aspects of computer use (such as Internet navigation, database management tools), and will also make use of locally-produced material accessible through Gopher and its successors. The Science Librarian is certainly the appropriate person to coordinate and provide this (increasingly technical) training, in conjunction with University Computing and departmental geeks.

An article by Sillince and Sillince in Science and Technology Libraries (Spring 1992) underlines the growing importance of "molecular information" and exemplifies the direction science librarians must be equipped to take in providing services to faculty and students:

Some research questions in molecular science can only be answered using electronic data... The size and intricacy of the subject, together with its rapid growth, mean that molecular scientists with even small specialisms (sic!) cannot keep track of information using hard copy and normal search... (121,122)
The article goes on to discuss the importance of graphical representations of search results and the challenges posed by sequence searching in molecular biology. At the moment, demand for access to these forms of information is slight at W&L, but it is easy to see that this will change with evolving professional requirements. The example could be multiplied in any scientific field: new and essential forms of data and means to access and represent them will emerge to challenge the resources of libraries and the skills of BI librarians. We can assume little more than that these challenges will be computer-based, and can best prepare for them by equipping the Science Library with appropriate and flexible hardware.

HARDWARE: PCs (Desk, workroom, Librarian's office at least) need to be X-Windows capable (and one should in fact be a real workstation), to handle the visual data forms that are increasingly important in science --as sketched above, obviously in Chemistry and Biology, but it's important to note the proliferation of visual representation in Geology; with current developments at USGS, it won't be long before the demand will arise for telemetry and sensor feeds to managed by the library, and GIS [Geographic Information Systems --essentially, spatial databases] are on the way to replacing paper maps for many uses. A lot of .gif and TIFF (image) files are appearing on Gophers and in USENET groups now, and an avalanche of bit-mapped imagery is in the pipeline in ALL fields as image scanning becomes common. It is likely that e-mail delivery of FAX will be common very soon, as well. (n.b. that these observations are the product of the SIGWAIS meeting I attended at Library of Congress)


Ricker, Alison Scott
	1992	The Kettering Library and Other Science Collections 
                at Oberlin College: past and present.  Science and 
                Technology Libraries 12:3 71-86

Sillince, J.A.A. and M. Sillince
	1992	Molecular Science Research, Molecular Databases and 
                Current Issues of Information Management.  Science and 
                Technology Libraries 12:3  119-138

Williams, Esther L.
	1992    A Science Librarian in Vassar College's Main Library.  
                Science and Technology Libraries 12:3  5-9