Library Expands Collection; Extends Hours through eBrary

News Story: August 16, 2007

Sacred Heart University’s Ryan Matura Library is using technology to provide patrons with thousands of additional books and extended hours of operation.

Virtual books sit somewhere in cyberspace taking up no room at all on the library’s physical bookshelves and provide users with anytime access. The recent subscription to three e-book services has added 35,000 titles to the University library’s collection and allows the University to leave its library doors virtually “open.”

“The collection is available 24-7, 365 days a year and at a distance. Students don’t even have to be on campus. They can access these materials from home. A lot of students these days are doing their research when the library is closed. The library is never closed if we have these materials online,” said University Librarian Dennis Benamati.

The availability of these materials online will allow the University to extend its educational offerings to include more distance learning programs, opening up opportunities to off-campus or online students, he said.

“Instead of being a storehouse of information and knowledge, libraries are also becoming a window to it, a place through which you travel,” Benamati said.

The physical library comprises about 142,000 titles. “This will increase our title count, pushing us to almost 180,000 available titles,” he said.

The subscription to eBrary provides the SHU community access to about 34,000 scholarly materials, most of which are recent titles. The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Humanities e-books subscription increases the library’s “holdings” by another 1,500 titles. The library has also subscribed to a selection of Oxford dictionaries and encyclopedias online, Benamati said.

The subject collections include 6,300 titles in business and economics; 2,800 in computers and information technology; 2,300 in education, 4,800 in history and political science; 1,600 in the humanities – music, theater, dance, media, film; 2,900 in interdisciplinary studies; 3,400 in language, literature and linguistics; 3,800 in law, international relations and public policy; 1,300 in medical sciences; 1,600 in nursing and allied health fields; 1,400 in physical sciences; 2,000 in psychology and social work; 2,200 in religion, philosophy and the classics; and 2,000 in sociology and anthropology.

“We want to give our students access to the best collection of material that we possibly can,” Benamati said.

The eBrary service was selected particularly because it allows multiple people to access the same information or title simultaneously. “With some of the other collections, only one person can access a title at a time,” he said.

Additionally, eBrary allows students to “borrow” virtual books and place them on their own virtual bookshelf, which they can then access online whenever they want to. As a bonus feature, students can highlight passages in the eBrary titles “and you have three or four different colors of highlighting which you can use to mark up the text. You can also make notes in the margins and you can include bookmarks,” he said.

The service will also let faculty members ask library staff to provide a link for students to a particular book chapter, which students can then read online.

The 35,000 e-books augment the SHU library’s “acquisition” of 14,000 full-text journals, which are also available only online, bringing the library’s online collection to 49,000, “roughly a third of our print collection,” Benamati said.