New Styles for Old Problems
Column Editor: Mary E. (Tinker) Massey (Serials Librarian, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Jack R. Hunt Library) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
We usually have a problem in libraries of making information available to many different patrons. I have seen libraries change from the card catalog to the online catalog, Dewey Classification to LC Classification to a myriad of mixed classifications, and still the problem persists. How do we provide information, and how do we make it more accessible to people? Changes have also occurred in the formats of information presentation. In the seventies and eighties, there was a predominance of print formatted materials with some microforms available. The nineties brought alternatives in media and a new adventure in the digital format. I have seen them come into use in libraries, and I think the digital has been received by patrons as a ready source and acceptable to their quick needs. The technology allows for home/office distribution through the Internet/emails and enhances delivery of information to patrons all over the world. At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, we have a 24/7 worldwide reference service. Special Internet messages/queries are received by Reference Librarians, who gather the information in many formats and scan that information, where available, back to the patrons. The combination of digital replies, print and media loans, and Internet URLs makes a complete and timely package for the queries received. We have also experienced a number of instances when our Internet connections were not available, for example, after the tornado strike and the drowning of our server after a severe rainstorm. We have always tried to be prepared by purchasing a back-up system in print or microfilm/microfiche that covers the majority of important materials requested by users. This also helps when the library is busy with requests. We have even purchased a number of conference proceedings and archives on CD-ROM that allow us to access information through another format. We have even solved a problem when the U.S. government begins to stop print and produce serials solely online. A number of our classes require longer scrutiny of materials, so we have found that downloading these documents (where no copyright clearance is needed) from the Internet to CD-ROMs gives us a back-up and protection against computer downtime. Some regular journals have given us permission for the in-house CDs as well. Our ILL Department is another area that allows for upgrades of technology and systems that create more speed and efficiency in the information delivery. With the advent of Ariel and management products such as CLIO, we have been able to enhance our ability to provide information to many. Another method of supplying offbeat information is our “vertical file” system that houses a number of items related to the aeronautical and aerospace industries. Sometimes fliers and other promotional materials account for knowledge that appears nowhere else in published form. There are personal items, such as diaries, letters, or logs that also provide substantiating information of a personal nature that cannot be found in the print format, and we keep these in the archives area. We look for information in many places and formats. As the world creates more of these to peruse, we continue to collect, organize, and preserve these materials for future generations. The trick is keeping your eyes and ears open to the changes and creative ways that are available. How many different ways do you have for backing up your information systems? This is probably something worth thinking about!