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Expanding technology aids library in meeting students' needs

With the advancement of technology and the advent of the Internet, many may have thought the library would be a thing of the past

By Roger Steinbrock



Not so, according to Beverlee Kissick, professor and director of libraries at K-State at Salina. Kissick sees the library as a growing organism that changes daily.

"In the past, it was difficult for people to get the information they needed when they were doing research," Kissick said. "Now students have so much information that it is sometimes difficult for them to distinguish what is a credible source. It requires them to develop and use critical thinking skills. The Internet may be the quickest method to gather information but not everything on the Internet can be taken as the truth."

Kissick believes libraries have to teach people how to use newly developed databases and other technology effectively.

"If users don't know how to use the tools before them, the tools are literally useless," Kissick said. "It's through teaching that we are able to educate students how to use the databases and other technologies."

But often, people are fearful to ask for help, so it is important for a library to be a comfortable environment. Kissick thinks a library practicing stewardship, as well as being visually pleasing, is one that is successful.

"I think if you are respectful to people then they know that you honor the library as a place of learning and growing," she said. "A good library is a library in action. It provides people with one-on-one assistance, respects privacy, encourages diversity and supports intellectual freedom.

"It's much like a real estate agent's three main points to buying and selling a house -- location, location, location, except for a library it's service, service, service."

Kissick believes technology added in the past 50 years has been visual in nature. She mentions televisions, computers and DVDs.

"There is a need for visual literacy too," she said. "So much of today's information is presented with more than just words. Being able to read and understand a chart, graph or diagram in this time of information technology is important."

But Kissick believes reading skills are still fundamental.

"Reading is a vital skill," Kissick said. "For me, it's vital, as well as vital for whatever profession a person is in. I just can't imagine where it wouldn't be important."

Standing in the Salina Library, Kissick said students have access to more than 23,000 volumes, but with access to catalogs of other state libraries students can choose from more than 4 million volumes of information, which is an equalizer.

"It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor," she said. "Libraries provide equality for all to have access to information."

As to the future of libraries, Kissick believes technology will continue to change, but that we'll still have books on shelves. She pointed out that the e-book market has fallen off and many of the publishing companies are disbanding their divisions in e-books.

"There is a pessimism that the library of the future will be totally electronic," Kissick said, "but I don't think so. There are many reason for this, but one important one is children. I just can't imagine a library with a children's department without books. I think there's a human quality that will not let that happen. The library provides a comfort zone for people and it would be hard to replace it.

"In America, we believe every person should be educated and society should provide its members with the means to continue their education independently. A person asking a question in a public library, a child listening to a story in the children's library, a person using an academic library's database -- none of these people may be thinking of being engaged in life-long learning -- but they are."

Winter 2002