FIU Libraries increasing access by digitizing content


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Whether it’s a professor posting course readings online, or searching JSTOR for the right article for your paper, more and more of the college experience is being digitized. As FIU moves toward more online course offerings, the FIU Libraries is increasing its digitized content.

The Digital Collections Center‘s 2014-2015 Activities Report shows a 21 percent growth in access, with thousands of new records added to the collection. These records are not meant to sit quietly in the archives, but to be used by students and faculty. To that end, Assistant Director of the Digital Collections Center Jamie Rogers has been teaching classes within several history, journalism, and English courses about the digital resources available through the Libraries, touching on how to search for materials and copyright concerns, and using technology like OMEKA, an online platform for exhibition displays.

School of Journalism & Mass Communication professor Robert Gutsche, Jr. teaches Visual Storytelling, one of the classes that has benefitted from Rogers’ instruction. According to Gutsche, learning more about digital collections “has been a great experience for journalism students to understand and create repositories of public information, much like they would do in the industry to make their news outlets desirable and sustainable. With the recent release of the Panama Papers, for instance, students can make connections directly to communicating large swaths of information.”

This move towards digitization is also evident in how library materials are purchased. In the past, libraries have traditionally followed auto-shipment plans, where books are regularly delivered based on profiles established by the library (a library can ask for popular fiction but not medical journals, for example). Recently, however, there has been a shift toward demand-driven acquisition (DDA), which works differently. Assorted titles are placed into a pool, which is then offered as part of a library’s regular catalog. At FIU, the pool is made up of only e-books in order to facilitate instant access to students and faculty.

Purchases are only made when a “trigger event” occurs – that is, when a certain number of students click on the e-book or stream the video. DDA has become enormously popular; the University of Arizona converted its entire purchasing approval plan to DDA from auto-shipment, and after a year had saved a whopping 60 percent of their budget.

DDA not only cuts back on costs and frees up valuable shelf space, it also allows for more customization. Because the only items purchased are materials students and faculty are actually using, FIU Libraries can better fulfill the needs of its constituents. DDA also provides access to a larger base of materials since a library can now offer much more than it actually plans on purchasing. There is also a DDA program for JSTOR, a popular digital archive of academic journals, primary sources and articles.

The move to digital content isn’t just focused on e-books. In August, FIU Libraries also launched a new DDA program with Kanopy Streaming. Vastly expanding access to streaming video content, FIU Libraries now offers availability to more than 26,000 streaming videos, including award-winning documentaries, training films and theatrical releases, none of which are duplicates of those already in the library database. Producers of note include Criterion/Janus, New Day Films, Universal Paramount, PBS, BBC and Kino Lorber.

Valerie Boulos, head of Collection Development & Resource Access, believes this is a great step for the FIU Libraries.

“It’s all about convenience of access and providing a cost-effective range of titles, providing our students with the best materials,” Boulos said.

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