PROVIDING LIBRARY SUPPORT FOR DISTANCE LEARNERS:
In the current Spring semester, 18 distinct courses made up of 27 sections are being taught via the Internet with 627 students enrolled in these courses, and 21 Compressed Video Courses with 604 students enrolled. In the case of the Compressed Video courses, only the enrollment at remote sites is included in the enrollment count. The Internet courses, which started with Education courses now include Computer, English and Nursing as well. The Compressed Video courses now include Business, Criminal Justice, Counseling, Computer, Journalism, Management, Science, Social Work and Zoology in addition to Nursing courses.
MISSION OF THE LIBRARY:
Also at the Watson and the branch campuses is the Local Area Network. It provides access to locally owned CD-ROM databases such as ERIC, ProQuest, CINAHL, and InfoTrac. Unfortunately this is only available on the campuses themselves. Although there is presently no remote access, this is a problem we are working to rectify. Until December 1997, we had provided dial-in access to our CD-ROM LAN. At this time, we upgraded our LAN server from Novell 3.12 to Novell NetWare 4.11. With this migration and the securing of the new server in a different location, we lost the dial-in access. Another major problem we have encountered is that we are using "dumb terminals" that are running off of a Boot-ROM (no hard drive, no floppy drive) to access our old Novell 3.12 server. We have been forced to maintain both servers due to this. Unfortunately, neither the terminals nor the old server are Y2K compliant, and the software running the CD-ROM towers is not compatible with Windows 95 or Windows NT.
Please note that accessing LOUIS and the LAN must presently be done from two different stations. Our goal is to create a "unified workstation" from which all of this can be accessed.
RATIONALE FOR CHANGE/UPGRADE:
The opening paragraph of the ACRL guidelines for distance learning library services sums up the rationale for change/upgrade at our libraries. "Library resources and services in institutions of higher education must meet the needs of all their faculty, students, and academic support staff, wherever these individuals are located, whether on a main campus, off campus, in distance education or extended campus programs, or in the absence of a campus at all; in courses taken for credit or non-credit; in continuing education programs; in courses attended in person or by means of electronic transmission; or any other means of distance education." (1)
Our goal has been to upgrade all of the computers in the library. Through various grants and other library funds, we have succeeded in this for all of the librarians' and paraprofessionals' offices. We also have received a grant to upgrade all of our public LAN terminals, but this has yet to be completed. At present, only our dumb terminals can access our CD-ROM towers. The software to run the towers is not compatible with Windows 95, 98, or NT. This means that our students can access the databases in the Reference departments and from the Media/Serials department, but none of the library Faculty/Staff can access them from their offices. We have the software upgrade, but when we attempted to install it, we lost our "public" access. We decided that it was more important for the students to have access than for the librarians to have access in their offices. We have on order a new Windows NT server with Microtest's CD software on it. It will allow all of us to access the CD-ROMs - not only at the libraries, but everywhere on campus, including the various computer labs. We are hoping to be able to upgrade the public LAN terminals soon as well. This will allow for the creation of the "unified workstations" which will provide access not only to our LAN, but also to all of the LOUIS catalogs and databases as well. If all goes as planned, this should be up and running before the end of this year.
Since we lost our dial-in access to our CD-ROM databases in December 1997, this has become a major priority for the libraries. Prior to this, students could dial-in to our LAN and access the databases using a program called PC-Key. Although this was a cumbersome process, it did provide students with access in the comfort of their own homes. After a year of research and evaluation, we have decided to go with MicroTest on this as well. They have a system that will serve as a web-based interface for access to our local databases. Although we do not have the money on hand for this system ($60,000), we are beginning to write grants for this. Another problem we have encountered with providing access through the Web to our databases is that the present library data wiring is not adequate. We have asked the Computer Center to draw up specifications that would bring us up to a level that this type of access would be possible. We are presently waiting to receive the requisitions for this equipment. This upgrade is going to cost approximately $65,000, but we have the funding set aside for this project. The final problem we are encountering with Web access to our databases is the question of authentication. We must provide access via the Web to students presently enrolled at NSU. The Computer Center's networking person has told us that this should not be a problem. All students may request an e-mail account through the university. He believes that the same login/password that a student uses for email can be set up for authentication at the library. If we can solve these few problems, we hope to have remote access to our local databases up and running by December 2000.
We are also hoping to provide online interlibrary-loan (ILL) forms so that students may request materials without having to physically come to one of the libraries. At present, this is the only way we provide interlibrary-loan services. If students are taking classes from a distance, they are dependent on their local library to obtain materials for them. Unfortunately, many public libraries do not provide interlibrary-loan services, and thus a student has no means of obtaining material that may be vital to their classwork/research. We presently do not have a set time table for this service.
Online reference is another service we are looking in to. This would be accomplished by the use of forms on the Web -- much like the online ILL forms. It would be a Web page with an "Ask a Librarian" form. Granted, this type of reference is much more difficult that face-to-face reference because it is not done in "real time". There may be some difficulties since many students know what they are looking for, but do not know how to ask the questions. Email will be used for responses, clarification of questions, and follow-up questions. There is no set time table for this service either.
Another service we hope to provide is that of "online library orientation". This will be Web based and will allow students to see what services we offer both traditional and distance students. We are presently considering streaming video and audio and basic text pages to provide this information. We already have information about the library's hours and schedule posted on our website. We are hoping to expand this as our services increase and as the technology allows for more advanced means of transmission of information.
We are by no means limiting ourselves to these four goals. We are continually looking for new options at providing more and better access to all students.
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