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March / April 2004

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Primary Source

Photo by Kenton Williams

Primary Source
Large libraries like Fogler have even bigger responsibilities in the digital age

About the Photo: UMaine's library, built in 1942, is named for alumnus Raymond H. Fogler, president of the department store chains Montgomery Ward and W.T. Grant, and an assistant secretary of the Navy during the Eisenhower administration.

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Jim Farrugia is not your average University of Maine graduate student or library patron. A librarian who used to work at Johns Hopkins University, he is researching his dissertation topic on logic-based formalisms for spatial information. To do that, he depends on UMaine's Fogler Library.

Farrugia, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spatial Information Science and Engineering, taps into MathSciNet, a comprehensive database covering the past 64 years of the world's mathematical literature, and ScienceDirect, a subscription-only source of research journals, abstract databases and reference works. He also uses WorldCat, one of the foremost bibliographic databases, which is licensed by Fogler. Two alerting services keep track of his research topic and send him e-mail when the newest pertinent papers are available.

For publications not accessible via Fogler or the Internet, Farrugia turns to the library's interlibrary loan service. Since arriving on campus nearly four years ago, he has requested hundreds of books and dozens of articles related to his dissertation topic. If a book or publication is in print somewhere in the world, the odds are that the Fogler interlibrary loan staff can get it for him.

"Electronic access to databases lets me discover what resources exist," says Farrugia, who visits Fogler Library an average of five times a week. "Through it all, librarians help shorten the information retrieval times for a researcher or student, who then can grapple with the ideas rather than with the logistics of getting resources."

Raymond H. Fogler Library, Maine's largest research library, operates in the digital age, providing 24-hour access to resources whenever and wherever they are needed. In the early years, Fogler focused on building its campus-based print and microfilm collections, providing services to support the academic and research priorities of Maine's land-grant university, and to meet the needs of people throughout the state.

In the past decade, Fogler has taken the leadership role in the electronic networking of public and private libraries throughout Maine. The result is strength in numbers. The size of the library available to every citizen in the state has multiplied exponentially as patrons gain access to unlimited information resources in Maine and beyond. Fogler librarians are information specialists rather than generalists, guiding library users through the ever-changing world of digital information.

The University of Maine's digital library is poised to enter a new phase when $52.9 million in funding is secured to construct an addition, to renovate the existing facility and expand the library annex. The improvements are indicative of the new role large libraries play today. Besides providing room for expansion and acquisition of collections, the new facility will be equipped with the latest information technology, as well as with the classrooms and specialists to teach patrons how to access resources. There also is a need to improve physical accessibility for library users.

Libraries are no longer solely about the bricks and mortar for housing books, but rather the state-of-the-art facilities and services needed to democratically provide everyone with access to information in the knowledge economy, says Joyce Rumery, UMaine's interim director of libraries. "As libraries provide access to more information services and resources, they enhance the lifelong learning, economic growth, cultural and entertainment aspects people want in their daily lives."

Historically, Fogler Library has always played a significant role in Maine because of its location at "the public's university," says Gary Nichols, Maine's state librarian, headquartered in Augusta.

"The public has always looked to the University of Maine for leadership in academic achievement and information," he says. "For years, Fogler Library and the Maine State Library have shared the responsibility to ensure that citizens in public libraries have access to collections statewide."

Fogler Library took the first steps into the digital age with the help of a bond issue. In the late 1980s, the referendum funded the creation of URSUS (University Resources Serving Users Statewide), an online catalog of holdings that included all University of Maine System libraries, then all libraries in the state, including legislative. And the cooperation didn't stop there.

Fogler's interlibrary loan service filled over 15,000 requests for materials held by other libraries that were requested by patrons, and loaned to other libraries more than 25,000 items from its

1 million holdings in the past year. Fogler also initiated the use of courier delivery, which is now used by all of the URSUS libraries.

Fogler has helped Maine libraries address one of the greatest challenges in the digital age the price tag levied on information. Often the costs for access to information databases are prohibitive for individual libraries. Fogler has helped negotiate annual subscriptions to a number of commercial databases. Purchasing these databases allows them to be accessible via the Internet to people in Maine.

"Fogler is part of the backbone of the state's library community," says Barbara McDade, director of the Bangor Public Library. "Its leadership has meant that even the smallest communities have access to resources."

Per capita, Maine has more small community libraries run by volunteers than most states do. Nichols calls the library partnership between the university and the state a "remarkable achievement."

"We share philosophies, equal access and resources," says Nichols. "When we travel and tell others what we're doing in Maine, they're stunned. In most states, libraries develop independent systems, but we're integrated into one, and that's pretty rare. Our scale the number of libraries and open attitude of sharing by the leadership works well for us."

Some of the first collaboratives among libraries in the United States date to the late 1960s, and most were in the Midwest. Elaine Albright's first job at the University of Illinois was to serve two cooperating libraries by tapping the resources of what was then the largest state university library in the country.

"The smaller libraries knew they needed the resources and couldn't afford them," says Albright, Fogler's long-time director of libraries who ushered in URSUS and other digital innovations before retiring in 2003. "I started my career thinking clients' use of other libraries was very remote. Then I went to work for one of the first libraries in the country to work in partnership with others."

In those budding years of library automation and partnership, Albright was the human equivalent of today's computer search engine, researching the answers to queries and filling publication requests from other libraries. For eight years, she worked as part of the state-funded ILLINET, Illinois Information Network, gaining first-hand knowledge of the logistics and value of resource sharing between libraries. Before returning to her home state, Albright directed a multi-library cooperative in Illinois serving 513,000 people in five counties.

"The state began to realize economic development benefits. The information access also allowed people to stay in their rural communities. While moderately state-funded at first, ILLINET grew into a model program with significant funding from the legislature," she says.

Having spent 17 years witnessing the empowerment of a rural state through its technologically linked libraries, Albright was prepared to sell the model to Maine. Her goal when she took the helm at Fogler in 1983 was to make the largest library in the state a service organization for more than just the campus.

In a recent survey commissioned by the University of Maine on the priorities of prospective students in New England, 89 percent of the respondents said that a library ranked among the top nationally is very important when considering college options.

Large libraries like Fogler have become sophisticated information centers for their states, directly affecting education and lifelong learning, economic development and quality of life. These libraries are important repositories of research and historical resources, and despite the technology, must operate in both the traditional and digital models of libraries.

"A common perception is that the more a library is digitized, the less room it needs," Nichols says. "While it makes sense to have research resources online and fragile historical materials digitized, we still have a tremendous amount in print, and will have for 100 years."

Fogler Library's collections include more than 2 million government documents and 1.4 million microform pieces. As a federal document depository, Fogler Library provides government information to Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. The library is a Patent and Trademark Depository, and home to a nationally recognized Canadian Studies collection. Also found in the library are such valuable collections as the William S. Cohen Papers, the manuscript collection of Stephen King, and Maine-related archives, including those extensively documenting the state's forestry and agricultural history.

The library's annex holds most of the special collections, almost a third of the government documents, and portions of the bound journals and the circulating collections.

While more library patrons than ever before are accessing information electronically, just as many know the value of opening books or resource materials. Bangor Public Library is a case in point.

Before its $9 million expansion and renovation in 1998, Bangor Public Library had closed stacks and minimal electronic information resources. With the improvements, which included open stacks and new technology, circulation has increased 50 percent annually for the past six years.

"Technology is an enhancement to books," McDade says. "We're still early enough in the digital age that we need something permanent or we'll lose the knowledge we've gained."

In the past year, focus groups and discussions on campus have centered on plans for an expanded Fogler Library. Students and other users cite the need for group study areas and more seating, a portion of the library open 24 hours, and a library instructional facility. Faculty concerns include the library's static annual budget, which has caused cuts in staff, technology upgrades and acquisitions, especially in professional journals and monographs.

Public librarians call for Fogler to be the "last copy" center for the state a repository of books or bound volumes within Maine's library network. Here, "last copies" would be held for access by any library in the state, freeing space in those smaller community libraries.

"When any library in the state expands, it shows the importance of libraries and it helps all of us in the state. If Fogler could expand and get more staff," McDade says, "it could only help Maine's library community with its resources and expertise."

by Margaret Nagle
March-April, 2004

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