Collaboration: Meeting the Library User's Needs in a Digital Environment

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Boston, George
Hayward, Julie
Sachs, Dianna
Whang, Michael
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Providing access to electronic resources entails several factors. After the decision to provide an electronic resource is made and the license agreement is negotiated and signed, the technical aspects of providing access must be assured. The electronic resource can be made available through the local OPAC and provisions can be made for use through other venues, such as a local web page or link resolver. It must be correctly configured to work with other resources. These may include any remote authentication protocols, local document delivery software, and other applicable resources. These and other customizations may be made through a resource’s administrative module or by correspondence with the provider. Critical to the successful access is the ongoing maintenance required to keep up to date with added features and technical enhancements within the resource. The presentation of electronic resources on a library’s website and the marketing and promotion of resources in the world of “Google” is vital in the library’s efforts to provide access to resources obtained for the user’s benefit. Usability studies, Lib-Qual?, participation in institution portals, and surveys are among the studies used to determine how to effectively reach users. The use of website “banners” to focus attention on resources and services, redesign efforts based on user studies, and flexibility in meeting and adapting to the rapidly changing technologies are guided by the Web Librarian. Making electronic resources available to library users is only worthwhile if they are able to use those resources efficiently and effectively. While traditional library instruction methods can be useful for teaching about electronic resources, many patrons are either unable or unwilling to participate in an instruction session. Just as we use technology to make electronic resources available to our patrons no matter where they are physically, we also need to use technology to provide instruction on how to best use those resources. Some methods of instruction include creating screen casts and other online tutorials, blogs, or wiki pages, integrating library instruction into online courses (using Blackboard or WebCT), and chat reference. The demand for faster service by library patrons has exploded within the last decade. Patrons want immediate access to electronic resources available worldwide. With the implementation of ILLiad, Ariel, and Docutek, the Resource Sharing Center at Western Michigan University focuses on meeting the needs of our academic community for materials not readily available to them. Technological advances have changed the structure of resource sharing. The electronic environment has provided immediate access to our users. From placing a request at anytime to viewing articles electronically, faculty, students, and staff can better meet the expectations for educational achievement and research. Additional services, such as document delivery for faculty and the provision of pdf copies from off-site storage material have been enabled with the efficiencies resulting from technical advancements. The necessity for team approach is never more apparent than when viewing the interaction needed to address all aspects of electronic resources and libraries in serving our patrons.
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