President's Message, Fall 2010

By Anne Wade

What interesting times that we live in. As I prepare to write this message I am reflecting on an article that I have just read from Maclean’s entitled From e-Books to No Books which discusses the migration of university libraries to the electronic format for materials. The Applied Engineering and Technology Library at University of Texas at San Antonio is used as an example of the world's first bookless library as It now offers access to 425,000 e-books and 18,000 e-journal subscriptions (Findley, 2010). Improved accessibility, simultaneous multiple users, greater flexibility for readers, especially those with special needs…it’s all good.

But what impact does this improved availability of electronic media have on the provision of reference and bibliographic services? Describing the scope and availability of resources and educating users on how to navigate through the sea of electronic material can be challenging. Having taught the Library Research Practices course offered within Concordia’s Education Department for fifteen years, it has been critical for me to keep one step ahead of the services offered by Concordia libraries. Typically lecture notes are adjusted up to one week prior to the class taking place. Even with this preparation, many questions abound. Last week I left my class in which we discussed how one locates journal articles via the bibliographic and full-text databases, feeling as overwhelmed as the students! How does one cite an e-Book in APA? What is the difference between locating the full-text journal article from a publisher’s website vs a full-text database? What is the purpose of Digital Object Identifier (DOI) numbers and where do they come from??? How does one move from the ERIC database, to CLUES for location information, to RefWorks for storage of the bibliographic record? One quickly finds themselves in a tangled web of explanations given the many possibilities that are now offered. Findlay (2010) quotes one reference librarian as saying “[I] might have spent 10 or 15 minutes with a student, but now the average time has increased to an hour. "When they're asking us for assistance, it's not for the easy stuff anymore, it's the hard stuff." (pg.70)

Clearly, now more then ever, there is the need to design relevant and innovative “just in time” bibliographic instruction. The University of Northern British Columbia is on the right track as they are piloting a mobile reference service called iRoam. When students need help they can page one of five roaming librarians who are equipped with iPads. Not surprisingly the pilot seems to be a success (Findlay, 2010). What a fabulous idea!

How timely is it that the theme of our spring conference will be Mobility: Making Connections @ your Library. Under the direction of our Vice President Julie-Anne Cardella, this year’s conference program promises to offer an array of interesting speakers. I look forward to learning more about how mobile devices can be used to offer innovative “just in time” instruction for our users.

Findlay, S. (2010, October 11). From e-books to no books. Maclean's, 70-71.