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BWLI Students and Committee

Digitized Data

10/03/2012

Over the course of her 18-year career as a librarian at the College, Public Services Librarian Linda Kaufmann has seen how technology has changed the way people access information.

"Every year, things have changed," Kaufmann said. "We've had more and more resources delivered in more and more different technological formats. We have 78,000 books in our electronic catalog. We don't yet have the majority of our books online, but I see that in our future."

Recently, MCLA hired another full-time librarian, Pamela Contakos (above), who serves as the Freel Library's new digital services librarian.

"She chats online, sends out Tweets about library services and takes requests for services through texting. We needed a second full-time librarian, and we definitely wanted someone who could bring us those contemporary skills," Kaufmann said.

Since her arrival, Contakos has worked to increase outreach to students and to provide a greater variety of ways for them to contact the Library.

"We instituted an online chat that I monitor during the day and our evening reference librarian monitors at night and on Saturday," Contakos said. "We also started a Twitter account so people can ask their questions there, and where we also post announcements and news."

Most recently, "Text a Librarian" was instituted, where, along with the online chat, people can text a question. "They don't even need to walk across campus," Contakos said.

According to Kaufmann, students expect to access information whenever they want, wherever they are.

"In the future, I'd love to do a mobile library site so students could search the catalog on their mobile phones and request a book from one of our consortium members. You could chat with us - right there on your phone," Contakos said.

In a related effort, over the summer, all of MCLA's yearbooks - from 1911 to 2012 - were put online in the College's latest archival project.

"We had lots of requests to use the yearbooks, and we wanted to make them more accessible," Kaufmann. "Because we don't have extra copies and it's really time-consuming to scan a yearbook, we thought, 'Let's put them all online.'"

Now, the yearbooks are on "The Internet Archive," a database dedicated to maintaining the access.

Alumni and their families ask to see the yearbooks for a variety of reasons, which include to reminisce or because they are doing family history research, Kaufmann said.

"We also get requests from current students, who look for pictures of things, like, what did this baseball team look like 30 years ago? Others have questions about the history of the College. Who was teaching here? Was there a glee club?  What plays were done? You can often find that information in these yearbooks," Kaufmann said.

In addition to preserving the yearbooks, Kaufmann said the big issue is access. "People who are far away, whether they are alumni, families of alumni, or just people who are curious can look at them, and they don't have to contact us. They can print out as many pages as they'd like."

Technology, said Kaufmann, comprises 80 percent of her job.

"Our biggest piece of advice to students who want to do any kind of library work is, build up your technology skills. Learn as many things as you can - like how to build a Web site and about different document formats," she said.

The digitized yearbook project was carried out with the support of the MCLA Foundation, MCLA's Hardman Library Fund and the LYRASIS Mass Digitization Collaborative, a Sloan Foundation grant-subsidized program. The yearbooks may be found at www.mcla.edu/library/yearbooks .