Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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War of the worlds

Two worlds are colliding. The past and the future wage war on campus libraries across the country. The fight is over preserving an old way of life versus meeting the demands of today’s students. Books and electronic databases are squaring off in what will determine how college students learn in the 21st century.

Many higher education instructors are worried the increasing number of technology-oriented libraries will make the book the information medium of yesterday.

Those worries are embodied in the construction of Raynor Library at Marquette University in Milwaukee. The $47 million project will bring in over 200 computers, a barrage of multimedia stations and a myriad of small-group study areas.

Nicholas Burckel, Dean of Libraries at Marquette, said the new library is a response to the way students learn.

“We’re trying not to dictate the way students learn,” Burckel said. “We are responding to the way students learn. In focus groups we conducted with students and faculty about how students study, we found they cluster together to study projects and discuss assignments.”

Marquette is not the only university to take the tech track. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities recently completed a $53 million renovation of Walter Library. The renovation added computer labs, a digital media center and a super-computer institute. Other projects are underway at campuses across the country.

As colleges increase their emphases on digital media, the need for books has not declined. Susan Hopwood, a librarian at Marquette, said the only casualties are bound journals.

Electronic databases like LEXIS/NEXIS and Proquest allow instant access to thousands of magazines, journals and scholarly publications.

The problem with databases is they cost money to maintain, experts said. Books, on the other hand, can sit on the shelves, be checked out and returned at little cost. With budgets tightening at universities across the country, some universities are already seeing the effects of cuts in technology funding.

Ken Frazier, Director of the General Library System at the University of Wisconsin, said the tightening technology budget at Madison will create problems in coming years.

“It’s going to be really tough,” Frazier said. “The cost of everything goes up every year. We are going to lose ground steadily. One thing is for sure: we’re not seeing slacking in students’ demand for access to libraries. The LEXIS/NEXIS site literally gets hundreds of thousands of hits a month.”

While libraries may be heading down the electric avenue, most professors still require students to purchase textbooks. At the same time, many of their course syllabi are online. Librarians at UW said books are as important as ever, citing the required reading of textbooks and the unavailability of full-text access to books on the internet.

Burckel said the emphasis should not be placed on the technological aspect of the new Raynor Library but should instead be placed on connecting with how students learn.

“If I’m a historian, and I allow you as a student to write a paper about the American Revolution, and I allow only internet sources, then I’ve essentially said you are able to locate everything you need on the internet,” Burckel said. “On the other hand, I want you to use the best sources. I don’t care where they came from. I want you to pick the best, and that’s what you ought to be doing. That’s what libraries ought to do.”

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