Revisiting Reference Print vs. Digital Resources at Park East High School Library Abigail Holland Pratt School of Information and Library Science May 2012
Park East High School Public school in East Harlem with student population of 350 Title I school—over 80% of students eligible for free lunch 90% of graduates go to college—most of which are the first in their families to do so Library has been dormant since 2005 Received a $600,000 grant to renovate the library Plans call for a media center for the 21st century
The Collection • Approximately 6000 volumes • Nothing newer than 2006 • 1/3 of collection was reference • 4000 volumes remain after weeding • Collection now contains 723 reference books
Print Reference After three months and about 60 hours of weeding…
General Interest Encyclopedias World Book (2006) World Book Student Discovery (2004) Americana (2002) Discarded several older or incomplete sets
Specialized Sets Reference Library of Black America (2005) Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States (2005) Encyclopedia of American Law (2004) Encyclopedia of Careers (2003)
Standalone Reference Titles MLA Handbook Encyclopedia of New York City Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll U. S. Constitution Our Bodies, Ourselves Occupational Outlook Handbook
Reference Books Now Awaiting a New Space 723 reference volumes remain 71 linear feet when shelved Further weeding may be necessary
Digital Reference The tools, the resources, the vision
Past State of Technology • Card catalog and defunct catalog software • A dozen old computers in library—not all functional • 15 computers in separate computer lab • No database subscriptions
Future State of Technology • Follett Destiny automation package • 15 computers relocated to new media center • 15 new computers added • 2 new Smart Boards • 3 new computers in library • Database subscriptions?
What do other librarians say? • Marta Valle HS: students use World Book Online and Grolier databases, do not use reference books. • Central Park East HS: bought only a handful of standalone reference books. • Other NYC HS librarians: databases more useful than print—especially a Britannica Online, Gale’s Opposing Viewpoints, Gale’s Student Resources in Context. • CUNY reference librarian: subscribe to ProQuest.
What does the literature say? • Maxwell (2005): school librarians’ preferences shifting toward digital, consortia make databases affordable. • Singer (2008): weeding print reference solves space issues, students and teachers prefer digital. • Kenney (2011): school libraries rapidly moving toward digital subscriptions and free digital resources. • Gyory (2012): print reference is modeled on concept of unity, should be preserved where possible.
An Electronic Resources Plan • Free NYPL databases—including EBSCO and Gale aggregators, Grolier encyclopedias • HomeworkNYC services from NYPL • WebPath Express to help guide Web searches ($250) • Online encyclopedias if funding allows ($400 - $800) • ProQuest subscription if funding allows • No free databases from DOE since we do not have a full-time licensed library media specialist
The Bottom Line: Print Pros Cons Much of our collection will soon be out of date. Materials can get lost or damaged. New sets are expensive. Books cannot circulate. Use of paper consumes environmental resources. • We already have a fair collection. • Some students are more comfortable with books. • Standalone titles are not expensive. • Present high-quality, curated information.
The Bottom Line: Digital Pros Cons Subscriptions incur yearly costs and can be expensive. Many students do not have access at home. Information on Web is not controlled or curated. Students may not know how to use properly. • Many resources are available for free. • Information accessible from anywhere and for multiple users. • Many students prefer working online. • Searching is easy and fast. • Students need to learn to use for the future.
The Plan for Print • Retain print resources for now. • Weed annually to keep current. • Purchase using book allocation: standalone reference, circulating nonfiction titles.
The Digital Future • Train students to use Web wisely. • Use free resources. • Use software allocation for one subscription. • Seek additional funding for other subscriptions. • Work to obtain support from DOE.