University Library sees less physical borrowing, more online usage

By Mason Smith

Last year marked the lowest amount of physical checkouts from University libraries in the past decade, but Susan Searing, associate University librarian for user services, is confident in the library’s ability to embrace new technology. 

Searing said the libraries e-resource usage is “rocketing” up.

“It’s hard to even comprehend the numbers,” she said. “We don’t really know whether that trend has topped out yet.” 

In 2014, the library counted over 5.2 million “successful full-text article requests” from their online database, surpassing the 446,722 physical book checkouts recorded last year, according to Searing.

As physical checkouts decrease, the library is continuing to focus more on its online resources. About 75 percent of the library’s budget is now spent on digital content and for the past decade it has been highly involved in digitizing older materials.

Searing said she believes having the online resources helps with the library’s mission of providing unfettered access to information.

“I think its nice to see if a book is in (online), especially if its really late or cold outside,” said Brian Sullivan, sophomore in LAS.

In addition to improving its online services, the library has also made efforts to adapt their physical spaces to meet changing student needs.

In fall 2007, Grainger Engineering Library was the first University library to stay open 24 hours, 5 days a week. In 2008, the Undergraduate Library followed suit. Previously no food or coffee was allowed in University libraries, but changes were made to cater to student demand.

Last year the amount of students using library facilities increased by 1 percent. Prior to 2014, the number of students entering University libraries had been decreasing. Searing said she wants to see if this recent increase in library usage will continue as a trend and would like to think it is a result of efforts to remodel spaces in the Undergraduate Library and Main Library.

The Undergraduate Library remains popular to students such as Jessa Grandone, Junior in LAS, who said she enjoys going to the UGL to do “mostly homework, studying and to work on a lot of papers and group projects.”

Library remodeling efforts include projects such as the new Media Commons located in the Undergraduate Library. Opened in 2013, the Media Commons provide an environment for students to collaborate and work with new technology. Students can rent laptops, cameras, and gaming devices.

It offers group study rooms with whiteboards and flat screen monitors that can be connected to multiple computers at one time. Additionally the commons contain a professional video production studio, audio production studio, and a gaming corner.

“Even if they (students) aren’t using printed books, they need environments that are going to be conducive to getting work done,” said Searing.

[email protected]