John M. Meador Jr., dean of Libraries, speaks to the University Forum during its Jan. 14 luncheon on campus.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Dean stresses local importance of University Libraries
January 21, 2014Tweet
Information commons, digital preservation systems and a growing emphasis on electronic books are just three of the ways that Binghamton University Libraries are set up for 21st-century success.
“We have the techniques to keep our faculty and students well-served into the future,” Dean of Libraries John M. Meador Jr. told the Binghamton University Forum during its Jan. 14 luncheon program in Old Union Hall.
Meador, who has worked at Binghamton University since 2004, discussed “Binghamton University Libraries: Embracing Traditional Values, Enhancing User Experiences and Employing Transformative Technologies.”
“Building and maintaining a library is truly a collaborative endeavor,” said Meador, who praised his administrative team. “Without them, nothing I am showing you today would be possible.”
Meador pointed out that there are four components to the University Libraries: the Glenn G. Bartle Library and a Science Library on the Vestal campus; a library at the University Downtown Center; and a fully-staffed storage facility/annex at the Conklin Industrial Park.
Binghamton University’s book collection has grown from zero in the early 1950s to 2,476,672 in 2014, Meador said. The greatest growth took place during the Gov. Nelson Rockefeller era of the 1960s and early 1970s. In 2007 and 2008, it was determined that 65 percent of the Libraries’ collection was unique.
“This speaks to the high quality of the collection built by the early Harpur College faculty, using Rockefeller money and working with the librarians,” Meador said. “(This collection) is going to draw people here.”
The collection now features more than 307,000 electronic books and a 504 percent increase in electronic journals since 2004, Meador said.
“Our biggest fear is the loss of relevancy,” he said. “If students have these kinds of (e-books), what is the library going to look like with shelves full of paper books? … We are now putting more money into buying and acquiring electronic books than print. It’s starting to change.”
For Meador, there is a key to ensuring that the Libraries remain at the center of the intellectual community.
“I go back to (former Speaker of the House) Tip O’Neill, who said that all politics are local,” Meador said. “I say that all librarianship is local.”
To help fulfill the needs of local customers such as students and faculty, the Libraries have established a free, self-service digitalization system in which documents can be scanned to formats such as pdf, jpeg and text-to-speech.
“Students want to convert print to digital,” he said. “We have five machines that will allow them to do this for free. If you have something you want to digitize, get in line. There is always a line at these machines because they are free and fast. This is a way we can leverage our past investment in print by letting people digitize on demand.”
Digitalization has continued, as Binghamton became the first North American library to use the Rosetta digital preservation system. It is an open archival info system developed by NASA in 2002 to preserve space photos. Original digital items now being preserved at Binghamton include University photos, research materials, theses and dissertations, and publications such as Inside, Dateline and the Online Journal of Rural Nursing and Health Care.
“This is ‘Real McCoy,’” Meador said. “It’s not some flash-in-the-pan product. If we did not step up and do this, our alumni in 20 years wouldn’t have anything to look back on. That institutional memory would be lost.”
Meador also stressed the importance of “information commons” at the Libraries. These are sites where research and writing can be conducted in one place.
“It’s a partnership with IT,” he said. “They help support students on how to use software and computers. We support them in how to do research. It’s all in one place.
“If you Google ‘information commons,’ you will retrieve (308,000,000) hits. Binghamton University is No. 3. That’s like winning the lottery. It is evidence that we are taking a leadership role.”
The merging of research and writing – along with digitalization efforts – has led to an increase in student use of the Libraries. There were 247,336 student visits in October 2013 – 7,700 more than October 2012, Meador said.
“We had so many students in Bartle Library that we literally ran out of seats,” he said. “They were sitting in the aisles. We have a challenge: We need more seats in the library.”
The Libraries also have invested in collaborative partnerships. In 2008, Binghamton began a book exchange with Beijing Normal University. More than 1,000 books in both English and Chinese have been exchanged, including many that cannot be purchased in the United States.
Binghamton University also is the home to the largest Kurdish collection in North America. The gift – the Vera Beaudin Saeedpour Kurdish Library and Museum – includes 3,000 books, journals, newspapers and artifacts.
All of the above, combined with updated, user-friendly web pages, has the Libraries on a path of importance as the University continues to grow.
“I go back to taking care of local needs first,” Meador said. “We are a local community library – the Binghamton community and the Binghamton University community. We are meeting their needs.”