Standard 5 -- Library and Information Resources
As a base of knowledge within the institution, the MSU Billings Library has been a central part of the East Campus since its inception for faculty, students and the community. That tradition continues, with increased levels of services to meet student technological demands and assist faculty in effective planning and delivery of quality student-learning experiences, both in the classroom and online.
The current building was completed in 1969, and has undergone many renovations and changes in the last 40 years. During the past 10 years, significant changes have been made, such as the transforming of part of the lower (first) floor of the building into an Information Commons and library classroom with 85 computers for student use. During the last three years, new study areas have been created with more comfortable furniture, carpeting and new lighting on the third floor. The main (second) floor has been improved with the consolidation of service desks, new computer workstations and furnishings.
Over the past 10 years, the online programs and courses at MSU Billings have grown. To best serve the students and faculty involved in online education, the Library has focused closely on providing full-text journal resources, rapid interlibrary loan and distance delivery service, and online instruction. Access to resources for all students and faculty, on campus and off, is a priority in all library decision making.
The Library has one small branch located on the West Campus, seven miles southwest of the East campus. While the study space and computer access are not keeping up well with the rapidly growing headcount of students at the West Campus, the collection is well focused on the curriculum used by faculty and students at the College of Technology.
A major initiative under way is planning for a shared Community Library on the West Campus —a new building of about 50,000 square feet — which will serve students at the West Campus as well as be a branch of the city’s Parmly Billings Public Library. The Community Library will share building costs, operations, collections and services equally with the city to serve the community.
The MSU Billings Library is committed to working cooperatively with other libraries, consortia and other relevant groups to enhance their access to resources as cost effectively as possible and to ensure dissemination of those information resources to library users. The Library has been part of a shared catalog and integrated library system for over 17 years, and works closely with other libraries in the Montana State University system. Annual reports for the Library are available with statistics and summaries of progress.
Students and faculty frequently use library services and information resources from campus, home or distant sites, so the quality of the MSU Billings technology infrastructure is critical. A proxy server located in Bozeman is used by the MSU Libraries on all four Montana State University campuses for remote access to library resources. The information technology structure on the MSU Billings campus is a centralized model. The campus networking infrastructure is a one gigabit backbone with redundant Cisco core routers and switches, and the campus computing infrastructure consists of approximately 35 servers, which provide for faculty/staff and student e-mail, web, file sharing, library functions, working portals, and a storage area network on both the East and West campuses.
- 5.5 West Campus 2007 Focus Group Comments; Community Library Planning;
- 1.2 Library Annual Reports
Summary and Analysis
By providing ready access to a world of information resources with a high degree of customer service, and by continually assessing and improving those services, the Library personifies what it means for MSU Billings to provide Access and Excellence at all levels. Some of the Library’s strengths include:
- User focus. A tight focus on the needs of MSU Billings Library users is demonstrated in many ways, from customized library instruction sessions to personalized reference services and extended finals week hours. Assessment strategies such as the LibQUAL survey and subsequent focus group sessions have given needed insight into user needs.
- Responsiveness. To underscore its commitment to fulfilling user needs, the MSU Billings Library has experimented successfully with electronic reference (in various modes), federated searching, and improved offcampus access via a proxy server.
- Involvement in University affairs. MSU Billings Library personnel are very active in University affairs, from accreditation committees to Staff Senate, Academic Foundations, eLearning, assessment activities and delivery of special programs. This high level of engagement brings a high profile to the Library, its operations and services.
- Collaboration with the community. MSU Billings, and especially the library staff, enjoy positive relationships with peers in the Billings community and in the State of Montana. These positive relationships will be increasingly valuable as planning continues for the Joint Community Library at the West Campus.
- Commitment to information literacy. With the inclusion of information literacy as an Academic Foundations Global Academic Skill, instruction provided by professional librarians has been given increased prominence.
- Finding a balance between digital and print materials. As costs of print materials (especially journal subscriptions) rise yearly, funding fails to cover basic subscriptions with increasing regularity. Therefore, finding balance between e-journal/e-book subscriptions and traditional on-the-shelf collections will be a major challenge.
- Inclusion of Library components in online courses. Anecdotal evidence suggests that while some online courses include links to MSU Billings Library resources and requirements for their utilization, this is not a universal practice. It is anticipated that with Desire2Learn functionality, this situation may be improved through the use of stand-alone Library resource modules.
- Management of electronic resources. As evidenced in the LibQUAL survey conducted in fall 2006, library users largely prefer the convenience of electronic resources. As these resource offerings proliferate, more time and effort on the part of professional staff will be required for maintenance.
- Funding for the Joint Community Library. As this collaborative project with the Parmly Billings Library has gained steam, planning has turned to staffing, maintenance, and management issues.
- Meeting the needs of a diverse student population. Ascertaining the needs of younger “digital natives” as well as adult learners of varying degrees of skills and providing intuitive access to Library resources are ongoing challenges.