Most of my research and writing for this blog took place at the library, due to a dandy of a windstorm that took place in Edmonton on Saturday July 19, 2009. While my husband and I were in British Columbia stormy weather was beating up Edmonton and we returned home to find broken branches from one of the larger trees littered around our back yard. We also discovered a mass of torn down cable in our yard and alley and we are left without cable and consequently, do not have internet at home. We have an appointment scheduled for our cable provider, Shaw, to send out a service technician but not until next Tuesday, ten days after the storm and a week after placing the service call – the storm is sure keeping our utilities staff on the go! Until then, I have to find my internet elsewhere. I am back to work Thursday morning but knew that if I stepped into my office on my final day off, I would be side-tracked by catching up with my colleagues and students and by the work which waits because of a week away. The best alternative was to spend my Wednesday afternoon at the library, a place that I have not spent very much physical time in over the past decade.
This blog is written from my personal perspective and unlike my past blogs it will not focus on using a web 2.0 tool for my work and my students but instead will primarily focus on my use of virtual libraries as a student. As an active student and staff member of the University of Alberta, I am granted “Access to University of Alberta Library Electronic Resources. The University of Alberta Library licenses a wide range of electronic journals, e-books indexing and numerical databases from commercial vendors. These licenses restrict use of these resources to current University students, faculty and staff (based on valid student or employee numbers).” I have been taking courses and have been using online and physical library resources at the University of Alberta, since 2001.
There is great irony in the fact that I have come to the university campus and logged onto a computer at one of the many University of Alberta Library computer labs in order to collect research for my blog on Virtual Libraries. I conducted my research from a computer on the second floor of the The H.T.Coutts (Education & Physical Education) Library and it is here where I soon discovered a second irony, to add to my considerations on libraries. There is a large sign at the entrance to the second floor of the Coutts Library which deems it as the “Quiet Study Floor” and yet, I typed my notes up on one of the noisiest keyboards I have ever come across. In addition to defining irony, Wikipedia states on the topic of irony that “There is argument about what qualifies as ironic, but all senses of irony revolve around the perceived notion of an incongruity between what is expressed and what is intended, or between an understanding or expectation of a reality and what actually happens: the literal truth is in direct discordance to the perceived truth.” Some might argue if my two examples above are truly ironic but I believe they both qualify.
I love libraries and have since I was a small child. I recall cozying up with a pile of books in the children’s section of the library before I was even of school age. Rainy summer afternoons were often spent at the library in my adolescent years and I proudly took diligent care of my library card. When I give family and friends who visit from back home a tour of campus I always take them to the Rutherford Library to show off the floors of books, shelved row upon row. My first connections to the internet were even made through my small town college library computers, back home in BC. I signed up for my first email account in circa 1995 and it was a free Netscape account that I would access through either the college library or the public library, in order to email a friend who moved away to Portland, Oregon. The libraries had several personal computers and enabled patrons to sign up for scheduled times to access the internet. Libraries today still provide computer access and for some this is their only way to access the online world. Edmonton Public Library enables patrons to book a computer for up to one hour per day and you can even book a public library computer in advance.
Prior to 1995, all of my post-secondary academic studies were written by hand, on lined paper, and all research was done in person at a library. My resources were searched for in person, by thumbing through the library catalogues, aka card catalogues, and I would write down call numbers on scraps of paper and then aim for the rows of the book collection and periodicals to search for potential resources. With books in hand, I would move to a table or cubicle and thumb through my finds looking for relevant material, making hand-written notes and citations, as I made my way through stacks of resources. For final essays or larger research papers, I often had to return several times to conduct my research before formulating my final drafts.
It is rare that I spend more than 10 or 15 minutes in a library these days because most of my interactions with libraries are done online in a virtual format. In Kajewski’s (2006) article, Emerging technologies changing our service delivery models, we learn about a range of technologies that are being implemented to benefit library staff and clients. Kajewski writes, “New technologies allow libraries to provide a better service to users by offering simple access to what they want, when they want it and how they want it. In an effort to provide access to and market the optimal 24/7 content and service delivery, libraries are creating virtual communities through social software such as blogs, RSS feeds, Instant Messaging (IM), wikis, podcasts, vodcasts and web conferencing” (p. 420). I have made trips to both my local library and the university library many times to sign out the books which I reserved from the library website. At the university library, I pick the books up from the reserve racks and take them to the sign out computer kiosks, where I scan my oneCard and each book, and then pack them up to take home. Without having any human contact, I have my resources ready to use at home. Of course, each campus library has a service desk where one can seek in-person reference assistance. I myself have not used this service more than twice in the past decade but on those instances the library staff was quick and efficient, and well prepared to assist me. I have used the chat feature which I found on the “Ask Us” page of the library website and I had excellent success and quick results from my reference inquiry.
Here is a great video that my classmate Carol shared on her blog – thanks for the virtual library introductory video Carol – I liked it so much I decided to share it too!
Articles and journals are now accessible online for staff and students and I do not even have to leave the comfort of my home office to save them and scan them at a later date. I search for them from my computer by logging into the University of Albert Libraries website. I can even collect citations and potential articles that I might look into further by logging into my university RefWorks account and storing items of interest from my article searches. When I am done my research paper I can go back to my RefWorks account and create a bibliography by selecting all of the resources which made it into my paper. Even once I have my book in hand the virtual library keeps on working; I am sent a notification email reminder just prior to the due date for any resources which I have signed out and then I can return my books or go online and renew my books from my online library account, when I want to keep them past my initial due date. There are a whole host of other services available from the library that University of Alberta staff and students can access and a complete list of the libraries faq’s online that will provide further direction and assistance. If you still do not find what you are looking for the library staff are available by the following methods:
- chat with a librarian
- call 492-4174, toll free 1-800-207-0172 for distance students
- email using our email form
- visit any Library service desk
- make an appointment with a librarian
The Edmonton Public Library also co-exists in a digital online world, open 24 hours per day and in person, at designated locations throughout the City of Edmonton. They have a vast array of resources available to sign out or use in libraries as well as, excellent resources available online for library patrons to access either from computer kiosks in the library or from any offsite computer with internet access. They have a broad list of resources that they refer to as can Downloadable and digital including, eAudiobooks, eBooks, eNewspapers, eMusic, and eVideos. From their homepage patrons also have the ability to Ask a question/Tell us, Book a computer, Reserve meeting rooms, view a list of Programs, Renew an item, Suggest an item and access Interlibrary loans. Recently the University of Alberta and Edmonton Public Libraries teamed up and now with a valid oneCard it is easy to register for a L-Pass (Library Pass) so you can access the public library holdings without having a separate library account. If you have a valid oneCard and would like to register here is the information from the University of Alberta Libraries webpage on the new L-Pass (Library Pass) Registration:
- The University of Alberta Libraries offers all current University of Alberta students convenient access to Edmonton Public Library (EPL) services with L-Pass.
- Register for L-Pass or update your existing account by following the L-Pass link above. Once you have successfully registered, you can use the barcode on your ONEcard to borrow materials and access services at any Edmonton Public Library location.
In Solomon and Schrum’s (2007) book titled, Web 2.0: New Tools,, New Schools, I found some valuable explanations for why it necessary for school libraries to keep apace of the virtual library trends. They reported that a 2004 report on “Learning for the 21st Century identifies six key elements of 21st-century learning: “emphasize core subjects; emphasize learning skills; use 21st-century tools to develop learning skills; teach and learn in a 21st century context; teach and learn 21st-century content, and use 21st-century assessments that measure 21st-century skills” and they go on to warn that “Today’s education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn”(p. 19). The students are living with Web 2.0 tools, and I agree with Solomon and Schrum’s assumption that “schools must help them use the tools to acquire new skills, not just play with them.” This is true of libraries too! The library is still an essential service in many communities. In some communities it is the only place where residents who do not have internet at home can gain access. It is also a place for learning, with public libraries providing a full array of programs for people of all ages.
In an article on Marketing the virtual library, Fagan (2009) writes to a librarian audience and suggests that “By carefully planning and evaluating your library’s marketing efforts regarding its virtual presence, you can determine which strategies will get the most bang for your buck” (p. 25). Fagan offers suggestions for maximizing the potential of electronic resources and from her list of many suggestions it is apparent to me as a patron of the virtual University of Alberta Library system that our librarians have mastered the virtual library! Of course, unlike many who register in the distance learning class on Web 2.0, I am not a librarian but I am a regular user of virtual libraries and I have seen first hand how our libraries are hitting the mark on the valid points she recommends libraries consider. Fagan shares:
“Another way libraries can increase the use of electronic collections is by offering training, both online and face-to-face. At my library, we see a direct correlation between library instruction sessions and database usage. Yet some resources may not lend themselves well to current library instruction. In academic libraries, for example, the emphasis on teaching database search strategy for finding peer-reviewed journals may not leave time for the librarian to show off the online reference sources.” The University of Alberta is doing just as Fagan recommends and librarian liaisons are available for university library teaching and instruction and while classes gain instruction in how to conduct research and make the most of database search strategies, the librarians also fit in helpful tips and tricks to master the other available online library resources. I took part in just such a course for my research course in my master’s degree program, last summer and also attended a session on how to make an academic poster and send it to our university plotter – way to go U of A librarians!
From Kajewski’s (2006) article, “US librarian Michael Stephens, author of Tame the web blog (http://www.tametheweb.com/), suggests that the new collaboration and communication tools available today need to be used by librarians to better serve users. Libraries can now communicate with their markets directly. If libraries fail, users may pass them by. Illinois reference librarian Schmidt specifically identifies the youth market in this equation the future of libraries depends on how well we meet the needs of today’s young adults, who are far more tech-fluent than most librarians” (p.420). For curiosity sake do a google search on libraries are… and you will find that there are concerns about libraries closing down due to cuts in funding, there are sites/articles questioning the importance of libraries and counter arguments with titles such as, “Libraries are irreplaceable source of knowledge” where one passionate library advocate wrote, “We cannot close our libraries, not even for one day. Libraries are essential to the human condition. Libraries are an irreplaceable source of knowledge.” You do not need to go far from the computer chair to see that there are many who are passionate about their libraries and it will remain to be seen how far libraries transition from the streets to the online world. It is my hope that the real and virtual can co-exist harmoniously and collaboratively long into the future.
Did you know? That Univesity of Alberta Libraries is on twitter
Kajewski (2006), aptly concludes her article with a forward thinking message to libraries, “It is important to research the technologies available to you and creatively use the technologies to better serve the needs of your users by providing simple access to what they want, when they want it and how they want it” (p. 428).
Fagan, Jody Condit (2009). Marketing the Virtual Library, Computers in Libraries, Jul/Aug2009, 29(7), 25-30, (AN 42638502). Retrieved from Academic Search Complete, July 22, 2009.
Kajewski, M. A. (2006). Emerging technologies changing our service delivery models. The Electronic Library, 25(4), 420-429.
Solomon, G. and Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.