Standard 5.C - Facilities and Access
The “library as place” has become an important concept again. Although students check out fewer books and may rarely ask a reference question, use of the Library has increased over the past few years. The ability to find an available computer with high-speed Internet access — to check out a laptop, or simply to stop between classes to email friends and family — has brought students into the Library more often.
In response to student opinion, the last three years have seen considerable renovation of study areas within the Library. Students wanted quieter, more comfortable areas to study individually; they wanted space to work in small groups without disturbing other students; they wanted a place to “hang out” and watch for friends between classes. There is now a variety of comfortable seating areas, clusters of chairs and sofas, café tables, and somewhat private booth areas, along with carpeting and additional task lighting. Several areas have been furnished for group study, although they are not as soundproof as they might be. Students are allowed to bring food and drink into the Library, though they are asked to be careful around the computers — they are most responsible, and there is very little abuse of this policy.
The children’s literature collection has been divided into two discrete areas — one is a children’s reading room on the third floor, with preschool through sixth grade fiction, furnished for parents and children to use together, as well as for use by teacher education students in children’s literature classes. The other area, on the main (second) floor of the Library, has nonfiction children’s books for all ages, and young adult literature, including graphic novels and other new teen reading.
Although the MSU Billings Library was built in 1969 and has undergone many< modifications over the past 40 years, it is an accessible building, with relatively easy wheelchair access. It is located in the center of campus, between the classroom buildings and not too far from student parking. The building includes an Assistive Technology room, with a variety of adaptive technologies for those with visual disabilities, learning disabilities and the need for individualized testing. The Assistive Technology room is overseen by the Disability Student Services office, which provides tutors for students requesting instruction on the use of adaptive technology. In 2004, Audiovisual Services moved from the Library to IT — a logical move given that most of the classroom technology has become computer-based.
The Library is open over 85 hours per week during regular semesters, with slightly shorter hours during the summer and Intersession. The COT Library is located within the original building on the West campus and is accessible, but open only about 42 hours per week. The Library is always staffed by professional or paraprofessional personnel, though assisted by student workers, especially at night and on weekends.
Although the Library space has not expanded, there is sufficient room for collections, for student use and for computer access.
The Library has more than 100 computers available for research and other student use. Eighty-five of these computers are in the Information Commons or the first floor classroom adjacent to it. These PCs all require student logins and have access to a wide array of networked software. This classroom is used only for library instruction, occasional class use and training — not for regularly scheduled classes — so its computers are often available for individual student or small group use. Over 20 PCs are available for public or student use on the main floor of the Library — they provide Internet access, but no licensed software access. These PCs have software limiting users to two hours use per day. An additional ten wireless-enabled laptop computers are available for checkout by students in the Library. Computer availability extends to the West, as well as to the East Campus. A recent addition to the Downtown Campus is a computer training center with easy access for MSU Billings business and continuing education constituencies.
The shared proxy server is used by students, faculty and staff in all four MSU units for access from off campus. This is a robust system, passworded and authenticated through the Banner system, and gives excellent access to web-based resources. The Library’s integrated library system is a shared Sirsi system administered by the MSU Bozeman library on behalf of the nine libraries using it.
Evidence: 5.10 Printed Information describing Computer User Services
Since 1998, the MSU Billings Library has been part of the OMNI MSU Libraries group, which shares a Sirsi Unicorn system. The nine libraries, all college or university libraries in central or eastern Montana are:
- Montana State University, in Bozeman
- MSU Billings – East and West Campuses
- Montana State University Northern, in Havre
- Montana State University College of Technology, in Great Falls
- Carroll College, in Helena
- Chief Dull Knife College, in Lame Deer, Northern Cheyenne Reservation
- Dawson Community College, in Glendive
- Little Big Horn College, in Crow Agency, Crow Reservation
- Rocky Mountain College, in Billings
- University of Great Falls, in Great Falls
These libraries give each other priority service for interlibrary loans and other needs, though this is a fairly informal agreement. Similarly, the four MSU Libraries work together a great deal to share a number of efficiencies. Cooperative purchase agreements mean lower costs and higher discounts for MSU Billings from book vendors, serial distributors, database vendors, and other library suppliers. A number of databases are subscribed to as a group for the four MSU Libraries. This keeps costs as low as possible, though it sometimes means that database-use statistics are difficult to get for each individual institution, especially for off-campus use through the proxy server.
The Montana State Library has a number of initiatives that benefit this library — for several years MSU Billings has participated in the statewide database subscription to a wide array of Thompson Gale databases for a minimal cost. For FY 2007-2008, the State Library is assuming all costs for this shared purchase. Similarly, the State Library has negotiated statewide membership in OCLC and in BCR for all Montana libraries — a minor but significant cost-saving measure.
This library, then the Eastern Montana College Library, was a founding member of the Billings Area Health Sciences Information Consortium (BAHSIC) in 1981. BAHSIC is one of the few National Library of Medicine-initiated groups that have been in continuous existence for over 25 years. The group includes both hospitals in Billings, as well as other health care organizations, both colleges and universities, and the public library.
Evidence: 5.8 OMNI-MSU agreement