It has more to offer than you may think. The recently renamed News and Microforms Library, headed by Foster Communications Librarian Debora Cheney, also head of the Social Sciences Library, is being revamped under her watchful eye.
"We have been slowly redefining the vision and purpose of the area," she said.
One of two rooms open during the library's extended hours (below Course Reserves in Pattee Library, west), some know it as the room "behind" MacKinnon's Café. You'll see lots of newspapers, lots of microforms, lots of study carrols and work stations, and thanks to new technology and funding, it is becoming much more.
In addition to the library's expansive news collection, encompassing both newspapers and magazines from various social interest groups and foreign countries as well as domestic, Cheney has overseen the incorporation of televised news.
"We came up with the idea of three televisions. We held preliminary focus groups, two with students and two with faculty, to see if we were on the right track," Cheney said. "We heard enough to know that there was interest in international news programming as well as the print news process."
Three plasma screen television sets, each broadcasting a different news channel, have been installed in the library. Two carry domestic news broadcasts, the other an international station. Plans for sectional seating are in the works for the area around the televisions.
The News and Microforms Library features newspapers from around the world, soon to be accompanied by world-wide
Although currently only showing news stations available via campus cable: CNN, FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC, and more, satellite news programming from France, Brazil, Russia, Latin America, and Asia will be added. Schedules will be posted on the News and Microforms Library Web site (www.libraries.psu.edu/newsandmicroforms/) and in the library.
"I think it's important for students to get a sense of non-American issues," Cheney said.
The original plan was that the television be muted and set to closed-captioning, but Cheney received feedback from international students and foreign language professors who advocated the importance of sound.
"We worked with Media Tech to find speakers to direct sound downward because we also share the space with Library Services for People with Disabilities and students with impairments need to walk through the area," Cheney said.
When asked about student reactions to the implementation of the televisions, Cheney said, "We have had people upset about the sound. What we find from focus groups is students are upset who perceive the area as a quiet study space. So I wanted them to know from the very beginning that it is not a quiet study area. That's why we started in the fall."
The televisions are muted at midnight for extended study hours.
"I think it's going well. We're seeing more and more students dropping in," Cheney said.
The microforms, a lesser-used section of the library, are getting a makeover as well. A recently added digitizing scanner allows students to print or save historical newspaper articles, as opposed to the sole previous option to print the articles for a small fee. Due to its popularity, two more scanners will be purchased in the near future.
Cheney is also researching the possibility of designating specific computers, preferably with larger screens, for news databases. Students would be able to look up historical articles using a method more familiar to them.
The inclusion of news in all formats is important to Cheney. She will focus on the purchase of electronic resources that provide historic contents, such as possibly acquiring a database of the New York Times back to 1859.
Trying to draw students to the library to discover all of its great features is a challenge. Cheney hopes to "spruce up" the lobby as a means to this end, perhaps even incorporating an Associated Press news ticker.
Cheney looks to communications and foreign language faculty to draw students to the area as well.
"That's why its important to me that faculty give assignments that lead students to the News and Microforms Library," said Cheney.
She added, "We ask lots of communications faculty to be part of our focus groups, and we tell them about new developments."
Today libraries must provide access to information in many different formats—we can no longer limit ourselves to physical or text-based formats, Cheney emphasized. "We need to recognize, not only the needs of today's news researcher, but also tomorrow's."
Kendall Mattos is a student assistant in the Libraries' Public Relations and Marketing Department. She is pursuing a degree in print journalism. Article reprinted courtesy of University Libraries' Public Relations and Marketing.