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Main Library hits cutting edge

BY PARKER SMITH | AUGUST 21, 2009 7:07 AM

A new state-of-the-art center for digital research this summer moved into the Main Library’s first-floor Information Arcade. The UI’s Digital Library Services will oversee online resources created in partnership with Google.

Eventually, the UI and other Big Ten schools could help scan 17.5 million books from numerous universities through the Google collaboration. Officials hope to complete the project in seven years.

The UI’s web-based resources — such as the Iowa Digital Library and Iowa Research Online — will be included in the collection.

The Digital Library Services was created approximately two years ago. Staff soon began digitizing local materials, library holdings, and faculty research material.

“What is unique to UI is we are making an effort to digitize the material we possess that nobody else has,” said Paul Soderdahl, the director of Library Information Technology.

He came to the UI in 1992, around the time of the Infomation Arcade’s completion.

The UI is also working to catalogue images online by working with Flikr, he said. And aside from making the materials available worldwide, library officials said UI students will benefit from the Digital Library.

“[It] becomes a discovery tool,” said University Librarian Nancy Baker. “Students can find books online and make sure they are relevant to their research before ever physically checking them out.”

Digital Library Services has also created Iowa Research Online, essentially a database designed to share research and intellectual output created at the UI. Content includes faculty journal articles, student theses and dissertations, and other scholarly and creative works.

The collection will help the UI share its findings with the public and communicate better with other top research universities, Soderdahl said.

“It’s impressive to see how quickly research can be posted, shared and accessed by a student or another researcher,” he said.

Main Library staff members have also made cosmetic changes to the layout of the library that officials said will maximize productivity and minimize unnecessary expenditures.

That required making some cuts, such as the ITC help desk adjacent to the heavily used second-floor computer lab. Library patrons primarily used the help desk to check out laptops.

Other services have moved. Laptop checkout has been moved to the information desk next the first-floor computer lab, and Media Services has relocated near the main circulation desk.

New additions include the Art Library, which moved from the flood-damaged Art Building West. Students can also enjoy additional group study areas and some new chairs.

In the end, Baker urged students to use the librarians’ help above all. They are available to chat online, phone, and by appointment, she said.

“Ask a librarian — that’s what they’re there for,” she said.


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