Penn State Intercom......April 12, 2001

Students benefit from
electronic resources

By Bill Campbell
Special to Intercom

Compustat, ExecuComp, TableBase, Proquest Direct, Multex.

Doesn't read much like a best-seller list, but that's exactly what it is in today's digital library.

As more and more information becomes available in electronic format, the University Libraries are increasing the emphasis on electronic resources.

"We are beginning to take our place as a world-class leader in building a digital library," Bonnie MacEwan, assistant dean for collections in University Libraries, said. "We always have been in the forefront of purchasing electronic resources. Five years ago we set a benchmark to place us among the top libraries in the country in terms of electronic holdings."

The Libraries have surpassed that mark and set another goal to continue the process.

"Because of Penn State's broad mission, our holdings are broader but perhaps not as deep as some other libraries. We are now working on depth. Another area where we will be moving forward will be in the actual creation of some electronic resources."

Drew Smith, a first-year MBA student, uses Proquest as his resource of choice.

"It has been invaluable to me in my research," he said. "It is a comprehensive service through which I can obtain necessary background information at any time. It is an expensive service which I couldn't afford on my own, but I'm able to access it through the University Libraries."

Tracy Mason, another first-year MBA student, also relies heavily on the electronic holdings in the Schreyer Business Library, located on the third floor of the Paterno Library.

"Recently I needed information on the pharmaceutical industry in Europe from 1989 to 1994 and I was able to access it almost immediately through the electronic resources available in the Library," she said. "There is so much available and it's easy to sort through and find what you need. In today's society, with its quick pace and technological emphasis, you need information quickly. There is a myriad of information available to researchers, but the key is a system through which you can pinpoint the answers to your questions. The library is our best resource."

Under the direction of Gary White, the Schreyer Business Library has become a model for using electronic resources. In recent months, the library has implemented a number of significant resources, including the Wharton Research Data Services, which offers Web access to a number of important financial databases such as Dow Jones Averages, FDIC Research Information and the NYSE Trade and Quote (TAQ).

"Our goal is to serve the gamut of research and scholarly needs of faculty and students in business courses," White said. "We want our faculty and students to have access to the top products. Only six Big Ten schools have the Wharton Service and there are only 36 clients in the country. The databases are licensed and we require vendors to allow University-wide access to the material.

"In order to be a top institution, we have to have access to these resources. There are so many users at Penn State that they would not be able to access print material at one given time. Our electronic resources allow users access any time from anywhere. Many products allow for multiple users of the data at the same time."

According to MacEwan, many faculty and students want the emphasis on electronic resources to proceed at a faster pace.

"It is occurring as quickly as we can do it," she said. "The contributions of librarians like Gary White have been significant. In reconfiguring resources, our plan is to work through each subject area in the Library. We are making a collective analysis of electronic resources in terms of what we have and what we need to enhance our breadth and depth. We are doing it thoroughly and intensely."

MacEwan said that electronic resources are tremendously expensive.

"It is a very costly transition in that we need to maintain both a traditional collection and an electronic collection. We want to add to our book collection and actively collect scholarly journals. That is very much a part of our mission and we don't forget that."

Use of electronic resources is not limited to faculty and student research. The Smeal College Advising Center relies heavily on it to assist students in selecting a major and making career choices. David Christy, associate dean for undergraduate programs, said the center uses electronic resources almost completely in helping students decide on a major and encourages them to use programs such as Hot Jobs, Darn Good Resumes and Salary Calculator.

"They become more comfortable in searching for and using the databases," he said. "Using the available electronic resources, we try to get them to link their choice of a major to a career, recognizing that there are a number of paths to a career. We've also incorporated the electronic information on academic majors and careers and career planning into our First Year Seminars this semester. It gives us an entirely new set of resources."

MacEwan believes that, as more information becomes available in digital format, the role of library as the intellectual center or cornerstone of the University will become more significant.

"We are here to provide information and we're finding that more groups of students come here to work on team projects and share information. You often hear students saying, 'Let's meet at the library.' If anything, in this new environment, that role becomes more important," she said.

"The increase in the number of electronic resource users is truly astonishing. And, we are providing more instruction than ever, teaching our clientele to understand the nature of information on the Web, to evaluate its quality and to think about its sources."

Information about the Schreyer Business Library, including a complete list of electronic products, is available on the Web at http://www.libraries.psu.edu/crsweb/business/.


Bill Campbell can be reached at wjc1@psu.edu.

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