The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 14 • Number 1 • Winter 1998


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The Plan for the New UMD Library

As technology changes, UMD prepares for a high-tech,
versatile, and aesthetically pleasing library

A warm brick exterior, an expanse of windows in the reading rooms and a rotunda with a panoramic view
are some of the hallmarks of the building. This view of the library faces the campus roadway, Oakland Avenue

Imagine sitting in a spacious room looking out onto pine trees and a small pond. The light is streaming in the window. You are at your laptop computer in the new UMD library.

On your computer is the World Wide Web page for your marketing class. Your assignment is to make a class presentation about how to sell a new home safety product. You link to a resource 2000 miles away and watch the product company president give a speech to his board of directors. You check the web pages of business journals, the Nielsen research firm and the Gallup Poll to see last week's data on how the product is being received by the public. You go to the detailed information on the U.S. Census Bureau web page and examine demographic trends. Finally you join two of your fellow students in the library's new laboratory to prepare a multi-media presentation. Your team prepares a cut from the president's speech, data from the polls, a video of how the product works and market penetration charts with your predictions.

Is this a scenario for some distant future world? It is all in the plan for the new UMD library. The UMD campus community, with funding from the Minnesota State legislature, has prepared a comprehensive plan for a library that will meet the needs of students in the 21st Century. In this plan, technology and the physical facility work together to create the best place to learn and conduct research.

Faculty, library staff, and students are already charging into the world of digital information. Rajiv Vaidyanathan, assistant professor in the Department of Management Studies, gave the examples for the student assignment that opened this article. He is already using the World Wide Web extensively in his classes. He said, "With the rapidly expanding computer technology, the amount of raw data available at the finger tips of computer users is phenomenal. However, with information exploding at its current rate it will take a good facility, resourceful librarians and an alert faculty to help students sort through it all and to make it meaningful."  

Timothy Roufs, professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology agrees, "What we can do right now is incredible; I have visited the web sites of over one hundred archeological projects in the last year alone. But it is tough for students to find the right sources on their own." When a student is interested in a particular area, whether it is Jane Goodall and her African gorillas or Mayan hieroglyphs, Roufs helps them find the internet source.

"Technology has changed my field dramatically in just a few years," Roufs said. "I saw the biggest recent discovery of prehistoric paintings on the World Wide Web. I saw the paintings in the Shovate Cave in France only three days after it was discovered and to this day, I haven't seen the images in print." He is now following a project called Maya Quest where a research team is riding bicycles across Mexico and Guatemala. "They have camera and computer equipment and each time they get to a phone, they log onto their web site," Roufs said. "They post their new photographs and videos, they give a report and they answer email or web questions." These resources make learning interactive and exciting for the student and the teacher. "If this is what they are doing now, can you imagine what the next four years will bring?"

Every academic field can report advances of the same magnitude. Each discipline is facing advances that are hard for the faculty to keep up with, and harder for the students.

Bill Sozansky, director of the UMD Library, said the trick is to handle the electronic information growth surge. He said, "Librarians are experts at organizing and categorizing information. We have the staff to make sense out of all of this data and to help the campus community use it effectively."

The new library will merge the print world and the digital world; it will act as the gateway to information. The library staff continues to evaluate the value of printed books. "People still want books," he said. "They like their feel, they like to hold them and read them." Some things are only published in a print form and an academic library has an additional responsibility to preserve archival pieces for research. Sozansky said, "We are constantly evaluating what information works best in print and what works best as electronic information."

Library Director Bill Sozansky and Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin examine the model of the new building.
Students will have access to the library through the concourses

The information on the World Wide Web has been described as a huge library in chaos, with all of the books on the floor. Librarians across the country are tackling the job of sorting and compiling indexes to make information on the internet accessible. UMD librarians are already assisting faculty and students in bringing together electronic, audio, textual and visual material.

 One example of how university libraries are adapting is a unique agreement between a group of Universities. The University of Minnesota and all its campuses is joining with the "big ten" universities and the University of Chicago to buy an electronic collection of poetry and drama to post on the web. Four full-text databases are in this collection: The English Poetry Database, with 1350 poets from the year 600 to 1900; English Verse Drama, with more than 2000 works by 600 authors from 1300 to 1900; the American Poetry Database, with poetry from 1900 and earlier; and the Database of African-American poetry with 54 poets from 1760 to 1900. Another consortium is planning to provide 500 full-image business journals on the web. The electronic data sources are making it possible for libraries to obtain collections and subscribe to many times more journals than they could before.

These web postings are different from free access web pages. Students, staff and faculty with a valid ID from the subscribing universities will be able to use these special collections from on or off campus. In many cases community members can access the databases from within the library without an ID.

Things are still changing fast. Computer scientists have estimated that 60 percent of the technology that will be obsolete at the turn of the century hasn't been invented yet. Sozansky said, "We could be using cables, fiber optics or we may even be wireless by then." The final decisions about the technology of the building will be made late in the game.

The three electronic instruction classrooms, an interactive television classroom and a multi-media laboratory that are now planned for the library may be modified, but the concept behind them will remain: students need to be prepared for the real world.

Barbara Haase Jeffus '68, is the highest ranking school library consultant for the California Department of Education. She agreed, "Students need to do presentations the way business people do in real life, by working cooperatively and applying appropriate information to the task at hand." Citing a 1990 study done by the U.S. Secretary of Education, she said, "The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), surveyed representatives from business and industry. Their report indicated that future workers need to be information    literate; they need to be able to deal competently with information. This means that they know how to access information, evaluate its usefulness to the task, and then communicate the message. Children should be able to start building the skills necessary for information literacy in elementary school."

She urged caution that, while UMD is investing in a new facility, it not overlook the importance of adequate library staffing and collection budgets. "I read that the virtual library demands virtuosos," she said. "with the expertise to select, organize, service and preserve the vast amount of information available."

Jeffus, who worked in the UMD library as a student, heard about the plans for the new library when she came back to the UMD all-class reunion last summer. She was delighted to hear that Chancellor Kathryn Martin has spearheaded a project of this size and complexity. "We can't get by with old information tools. We can't rearrange and modify any longer. Chancellor Martin and UMD are on the best possible track," she said. "The kind of library they are envisioning will put them far ahead of schools their size. It will make UMD marketable in any academic field."

The multi-media lab will also be adaptable to any academic field. It is a much needed addition to UMD's facilities. In this lab, professors and students will be able to mix media to prepare presentations. They will be able to scan printed material, edit video and audio tape in a number of formats, and put it all together as a prepared piece. Students will be able to practice the teamwork and presentation skills that they will need in their careers.

The interactive television (ITV) lab will allow faculty to have one more technologically-advanced classroom on campus. Faculty are already broadcasting selected classes to other sites in Minnesota. Through ITV, students who normally would be unable to attend classes at the Duluth campus can attend class and interact through two-way television with other students and the instructor.

Ken Johnson AIA, principal architect with Stanius Johnson Architects, said the facility is designed to be as versatile as it possibly can. "Technology is changing the way we do business and we want this building to be able to adapt." For instance, the structural floor system can be easily drilled through. It is a five-inch thick slab so it will allow for future wiring systems and any other electrical technology. A vertical chase will run through all four floors and cable trays will run through the ceiling to manage cabling and electrical wiring. Johnson said, "It is a high-tech library, it is acoustically sound and aesthetically pleasing. If we need more study carrels and less stack space, we have designed a system to accommodate that. The floor can hold book-stack weight anywhere in the building. The building is state-of-the-art, yet it is flexible enough to handle modifications."

All reading tables and study rooms will have outlets for power and data cables. There are 1374 seats and anywhere you sit you will be able to plug in your laptop computer. That is quite a change from the current situation.

UMD now has only 418 student computers on campus, 292 in labs and 126 basic access computers. "We are really lacking study areas and seating for students in the library," said Scott Denham, a senior Communication major. "Sometimes students have to study in the hallways."

Johnson talked about the library design. "We have a unique site," he said. "Our climate is as important to consider as the unique aspects of the UMD campus." The building is designed to keep students warm in the winter;   it gives easy access to the library through the concourses. There are beautiful views that add to the library study areas. Johnson said, "We want the edge of the building to look out on Bagley Nature Area, on to trees, water and colors." The wood trim and expansive use of windows in the interior reflect the desire to make it a pleasant space.

The library will be warm and welcoming and it will contain a gateway to a world of information.



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