Navigating the Sea of Information

Pat Kreitz, Dean of the Library and Academic Resources, advising a library patron.It’s Monday night and the SMC Library is jumping. The tables and study rooms are busy and beanbags form circles on the floor as students work collaboratively on projects. An Integral major doesn’t want to give up her seat but needs research on dances in Bali. She sends a text to the Reference Desk and a staff member answers her query, helping her narrow her topic and find the right online resources.

Think college libraries are dinosaurs? Think again. In the last fiscal year, more than 365,000 visits were made to the Saint Mary’s College Library, a 20 percent increase over the year prior, according to Patricia Kreitz, Dean of the Library and Academic Resources. In fact, student, faculty and staff use of the library has increased 67 percent since 2007, with student usage of print and electronic reserve materials up 49 percent during the same period.

 “We collect, select and then pay for the very best resources to provide students the help they need in learning, thinking, writing and researching,” said Kreitz.

She compares the world of information to an ocean, with Google just filling the first four inches. Navigating the rest of it, which is often required of undergraduate and graduate students, takes extreme expertise, monetary investment or exclusive access. Librarians spend a lot of time researching, testing and assessing databases so that students are guided to the critical information they require.

“There’s so much scholarly information available,” said Kreitz, “it overwhelms students, and they don’t know how to select the very best things for their topic.” A paper on dance in Bali could go on for 500 pages, but Kreitz and her staff help prune the topic down to a more manageable subtopic.

Kreitz looks forward to expanding student services with a new library, still in the fundraising stages. On the horizon is what she calls the “Holy Grail of library delivery”—the anywhere, anytime library that connects students to the support staff and resources they need, even when the library isn’t open. “We now have chat, instant messaging, email and texting. Students are expecting that constant connectivity and constant support.”