"Snapshot” Opens the Books on CSU Libraries

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By Liz Chapin, CSU Public Affairs

Originally appeared October 8, 2010 http://www.calstate.edu/pa/News/2010/story/snapshot.shtml.

With 23 campuses and nearly 412,000 students, the California State University is the nation’s largest university system. And according to Snapshot data, CSU libraries serve nearly 114,000 visitors on a typical day. 

As part of the California Library Association’s “Snapshot: One Day in the Life of California Libraries,” 21 CSU libraries joined others throughout the state on Oct. 4, 2010 to gather statistics, comments, pictures and other data. The information reflects the libraries’ invaluable services and will be used to advocate for the future of California’s libraries. Insights gathered from Snapshot data will also help the CSU libraries improve and enhance their own collections and services.

Despite today’s transition to digital media, the American Library Association reports that visits to college libraries are on the rise – partly due to the fact that academic libraries are adapting to meet students’ changing needs. The importance of university libraries is unique. Not only do they foster research and innovation, they prepare students to enter the knowledge-based workforce upon graduation. And for CSU students, academic success is a fundamental part of the journey to college graduation.

“Support for academic success is the primary mission of the CSU libraries. Every CSU library endeavors to be student-centered, borne out by our robust teaching programs, our attention to student-friendly spaces for study, for group work, and for exciting co-curricular programs,” said Sonoma State University Library Dean Barbara E. Butler.

Snapshot also gave CSU libraries the chance to highlight their many features and celebrate the significant roles they play on campus.

Butler noted that the SSU Library at the Jeanne and Charles Schulz Information Center celebrated its tenth anniversary the same week.

“We wanted to pause and note our progress in becoming a dynamic learning center – an active social space that supports student learning and academic success,” Butler said. “During the past 10 years, library traffic has tripled, in use of the facility, and in online access to our web site and many e-resources. Our library is hopping with energy!”

Butler describes the modern library as “collaborative, technology-infused and adaptive to change.” As a result, libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources. They are extending services beyond the physical walls of the building.

In addition to serving their local communities, CSU libraries are interconnected through online databases shared with other libraries across the state. This provides access to an almost limitless amount of information. Navigating these resources is one area where skilled CSU librarians come into the picture.

For example, to help with data searching, librarians at Cal State Fullerton’s Paulina June and George Pollak Library teamed up with faculty to create research guides, which bundle related information. One search in a particular subject can bring up an entire bundle, which makes the search process easier. The Pollak Library is beginning to define itself as a cyber learning center.

Pollak’s library staff utilizes focus groups to track evolving student expectations for the library. Not surprisingly, one of these expectations is additional help with database searches. To meet students’ requests, the library created instructional text and videos on using specialized search programs.

Danielle McGee, a junior kinesiology student at CSUF, noted that the library is meeting his increased research demands.

“More and more research is required (for my assignments),” McGee said. “It’s a great place for that.”

CSU students need the ability to access information online as much as possible, and they also need the tools to get there. To provide this access, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Robert E. Kennedy Library offers laptop, AV equipment and eBook rentals. With recent increases in eBook options for CSU course textbooks, they are becoming a common sight on CSU campuses and in CSU libraries.

Examples like these prove that CSU libraries are meeting students’ academic needs. However, the bigger picture produced by Snapshot will put the impact of campus libraries into perspective. Amid significant budget cuts and changing technology, this picture can help to guarantee students’ needs will be met in the future.