It used to be that you had to wait for the library to open to get your book, couldn’t remove reference materials from the library and the information was often found only on paper.
West Virginia University Libraries is making use of the increased access that technology provides by offering more information outside of its walls for use at any time.
The university community also has online access to digitized copies of specialized books found only at WVU and more than 30,000 electronic journals.
According to Bill Rafter, head of Library Systems and Technology, accessibility is key and the more documents that become available online, the easier using library services will become for patrons.
He feels the convenience of online books is constantly increasing. Because so many materials are now available online, in a way, the library can be open for use 24 hours a day.
“The library as a place is still very important; it is not going away. But the model for accessing information is changing,” Rafter said. “The material is still there, just in electronic format.”
According to Penny Pugh, head of the Reference Department, the biggest beneficiaries of the e-book collection are the students in extended learning programs.
Although the Libraries provide books by mail to students enrolled in extended learning courses, e-books make the material immediately available, no matter where the student lives.
Benefits of the e-books include access, multiple people using an e-book at one time, searching within the book for specific chapters or even lines of text as well as typing in specific keywords or quotes found in the book. The online format allows for highlighting and note taking within the document.
“Library e-books do not require any special readers or software, so students and faculty may access the e-books using standard Web browsers,” Pugh said. “Online books will really aid students, especially when working on research projects.”
In the future, Pugh said that the Libraries will continue to acquire what students and faculty want in online reference material and e-book technology.
That is not to say the Libraries are not still buying and preserving print books. Books and journals not used for 10 years are sent to a repository on the Evansdale Campus. If the documents are needed while there, the staff can scan digital copies to be sent to the individual requesting them.
The WVU Libraries and the West Virginia and Regional History Collection also participate in a program called the Internet Archive. Member libraries select books, often of a subject matter or of a local or regional focus, that are unlikely to be found in the holdings of other libraries to be included in the archive.
WVU’s digitized books can be found on the Internet Archive. To get to the WVU Libraries’ page, first click “Text,” then “American “Libraries,” and then “West Virginia University,” finally click on “All Items” to see a list of all available WVU materials.
“The book is digitized in its complete original condition starting with the cover, meaning if there is a smudge or penciled note on the page, it will be in the digital version,” said Harold Forbes, associate curator of the collection.
Digitizing the Monticola, the WVU yearbook, was the biggest hit for a lot of people, Forbes said. Many people like to look up their parents or even grandparents in the digital yearbooks as well as seeing the culture of the campus change through the years.
Captured in photography, the history of the University is now available online for future generations.
“The most interesting part of digitization is that they are special collections,” Rafter said. “Nobody else has these books. They are unique to us and we’re making them available.”
Rafter said that the best way for a broad and comprehensive database to be built is if all participating universities focus on their strengths when contributing to the archive.
Another exciting project the Libraries have undertaken is West Virginia History OnView. Located at the bottom of the Libraries’ main page, West Virginia History OnView is a database of almost 40,000 historic photographs of West Virginia and Appalachia; images go as far back as the 1800s and as recent as the present day.
Forbes credits a lot of the success of the uploading and labeling of the photos to WVU student workers who have been trained in digitizing and describing.
“The students really get into it, and I think they understand the significance of what they are doing for the University as well as the community,” Forbes said.
Rafter said the Libraries plan on focusing most of its digitization on regional history for the time being. There are still hundreds, possibly even thousands of books in the collection that are eligible for digitization because Appalachia and West Virginia history are very popular topics.
“We are fortunate to be large enough to digitize books,” Rafter said. “There are a lot of hidden treasures tucked away out there in smaller community libraries. If we can have digital copies made of those books then we can help bring the information out to the public.
WVU Libraries staff hopes to work with smaller institutions and libraries in developing other digitization projects in the future.
In time for Valentine’s Day, visitors to WVU Libraries’ digital Vintage Valentines can view and e-mail antique Valentines to loved ones.
By Katie Pappa
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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