Information Update - Spring 2012

Weinberg Memorial Library -- Twenty Years Back; Twenty Years Forward

Writing a history of a building, or any history, for that matter, can be problematic. Does an account of dates and events really sum up how time has changed? If mile markers are needed for our Library, an excellent place to look is the timeline (http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/15233/Weinberg-Memorial-Library/ ) put together by Elizabeth Teets, special collections assistant, and Kay Lopez, part-time cataloger. Here you will find all the innovations, accomplishments and events that have occurred in and around the Weinberg Memorial Library since 1988 when the first new Library Committee was formed.
 
One of the best ways to synopsize the evolution of the Library is through photographs. For this, let's go back even further than 1992, when the Weinberg Memorial Library was built; back, in fact, all the way to 1960, when the Alumni Memorial Library (now Alumni Memorial Hall) opened.
 
1960 The surreal quality of this photo is, of course, further emphasized by the coat-and-tie requirement of the all-male students: they look rather mature for undergraduates and appear as if they are about to start singing "Gotta Stop That Man." Aside from this IBM-ish junior executive look, there is no hint of a computer or online device in sight. No wonder: for libraries, these had yet to be invented.
 
Jumping ahead about 27 years to 1987, we see in the next photo the first terminals for the new online catalog. One gentleman is using the new OPC; the other has opted to play it safe and stick with the old card catalog. It was not an option, though, that he had for long. Almost immediately, we began to do away with the card catalog, the hallmark of all libraries for decades.
 
1987When the Weinberg Library opened in June 1992, the Internet was in its infancy. State- of-the-art, computer-wise for us, was the CD-ROM network which allowed multiple simultaneous users of databases. Our second floor computer lab for accessing this network consisted of only about a half dozen PCs. Print was for many things still the standard, as can be seen in the following photo of our Index and Abstract section.
 
At this point things started to change very, very rapidly. While a library user of 1960 would have seen little change in 1987 and could still have coasted by with a little coaching in 1992, the library of 2012 would leave him totally flummoxed. 1992Within a few years after opening, we had removed the print indexes and abstracts to make way for a large expanded computer lab. The Internet Revolution, which has changed all our lives, was under way. The following photo shows the former Index and Abstract section as it appears today, with Betsey Moylan, our reference coordinator, using the print release station. Strangely enough, our patrons still like to print things; back in 1987 a "paperless society" was the by-word for an immediate future that has yet to fully arrive.
 
2012Fast forward to the present, our twentieth anniversary of the Weinberg Memorial Library. What does the future hold for our library and for libraries in general? Will libraries continue to exist as integral parts of academic and cultural life, or are they destined to go the way of livery stables and village blacksmith shops? In the immediate future, at least, the answer is that libraries will survive, but they will continue to evolve. Despite the efforts of Google, for many reasons, not least of all copyright, many information resources will still not be available free of charge via the internet. Books, journals, magazines and newspapers will be accessible only by subscription, and the easiest way to access these subscriptions for the average researcher will be through the resources of the library. Print also is not yet finished. Books as printed pieces are still extremely viable, easy to use, and well-liked sources of information. The library itself, though, will change. Information commons that allow online access through wireless networks are becoming standard. The library will also act as a meeting place for group research. Our commitment at the Weinberg Library is to expand our group study facilities and explore different configurations of seating and library use. Finally, the library's walls are folding out, metaphorically speaking: no longer is a Flyerlibrary user in the library physically, but instead may be accessing the library's resources from a distance. Our commitment has anticipated this trend, not just with online resources, but with online reference services such as 24-hour chat and instant messaging for reference questions.
 
When the Weinberg Memorial Library was constructed in 1992 it was situated physically so that it would be the heart of the campus. Libraries of the future may change and be almost unrecognizable by today's standards, but they will remain the heart of research and learning.
Kevin Norris