The Evolving Library

According to data available through the USF InfoCenter, USFSP has grown by most measures from 2009 to 2013. Student FTE has increased by 15.4%; Student Credit Hours (SCH) have increased by 15.5%; unduplicated student headcount has increased by 21%. In response to the greater number of students and increased SCH, the University has employed 30% more permanent and adjunct faculty.

Reflecting the growing number of students and the faculty to teach those students, the Poynter Library has also experienced growth in the demand for library services. During this same five-year time period, we have experienced an increase of 14% in visitors to the library and 4% in circulation activity. As the chart below shows, we have served 66% more students in class-specific instruction sessions and have had a significant increase in the participation in library-sponsored events – a 79% increase in the number of people reached through our special events. For a variety of reasons, there have been fewer student orientation sessions scheduled in the library. However, I and other librarians have been getting out across campus more and taking our orientations on the road, sessions that are not reflected in these statistics. Overall, we have provided 130% more instruction sessions, workshops and events and have served 56% more people through those events.

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In spite of the increases in the number of students and faculty and the growing service demands, the number of librarians and library staff providing these core services has remained the same. The faculty-to-librarian/staff and student-to-librarian/staff ratio gets worse every year. (The only staffing area to see any increase has been in distance learning technical support (instructional designers to assist faculty in the design and implementation of online courses), positions which are funded wholly from the student fee for distance learning. Those services are not reflected in the above chart.)

Another area of service – reference and research assistance – has been evolving during this time period, as seen in the chart below. Fewer people are coming in for face-to-face assistance; instead, they are turning more to chat and virtual reference. While face-to-face reference assistance has decreased 41% overall (except for the intensive Research Assistance Program (RAP) sessions), there has been a 206% increase in virtual assistance.

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During this time, the Library has been constantly evolving to meet the needs of today’s students and faculty.

In addition to the ongoing redesign of the library’s physical space (described in previous postings), we have completely redesigned the library’s virtual space, the web site. We have picked up a number of new services during these same years, such as: the USFSP Digital Archive, support for College faculty T& P preparation, and more events showcasing faculty and student research, to name just a few.

We are still responsible for checking materials in and out, processing interlibrary loans, building and maintaining collections to support the University’s research and instruction needs, liaising with a growing number of academic departments and programs, assisting with program accreditations, reviewing library collections and services in support of new courses and programs, serving on University and Faculty committees, and investing in our own research and professional development to ensure that we are able to provide the best service possible.

Our newest venture involves planning a program for managing research data to enable the University to be in compliance with new requirements from federal granting agencies for archiving and providing access to research data. We have just received an internal research grant to help us move forward in this area more quickly. Stay tuned here for more updates on this and other library initiatives.

And, as always, visit us in our physical or virtual spaces and give us your feedback.

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