Technology-Driven Program for Librarians Responding to Need
One UA program is helping to educate the modern-day librarian to not only have traditional knowledge, but skills deeply rooted in new technology.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications
Oct. 17, 2007

The role of the modern-day librarian has evolved into one that increasingly requires not only a fundamental knowledge of records management and traditional librarianship, but also tech savvy.

Making sure that current and future librarians have that mix of skills is the focus of a new certificate program at The University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science.

Bruce Fulton, communications and outreach librarian for the school, says the tendency today is toward “richer” formats, such as media files, audio recordings and video. Data presented in print and other analog formats is practically passé.The trend has made the school’s digital information management graduate certificate important and in demand.

“There has been an explosion in the growth of digital documents” says Fulton, who wrote the grant proposal that provided three years of funding. Fulton also helped develop the 18-credit program with a group that included Jana Bradley, the school’s director, and Richard Pearce-Moses, an agency official with the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records.

But the program is not only about saving records found in paper form, but also preserving digital information.

“We’re at a point where we’re at a real risk of losing a lot of information. As a society, we can’t afford to lose information,” Fulton added.

The school launched the program over the summer and has since introduced additional courses, including an advanced digital collection class. The school soon will expand enrollment beyond the first 12 students, who are mostly from Arizona, but also New Mexico and Washington, D.C.

Commonly known as DigIn, the digital information management program was two years in the making.

The certificate is designed for people working with digital information collections, whether at a library, for a cultural heritage organization, or with an archive or museum, says Peter Botticelli, an assistant professor of practice at the school. Students already have their undergraduate degrees.

“It’s designed to be a combination of hands-on exercises where we build their technical skills and understanding of systems,” Botticelli says. “We’re seeing increasing volumes of digital records that need to be preserved, and that is the leading edge of what is happening as governments all over the world are moving into digital recordkeeping."

Part of the reason that's happening is that the public has an increased interest in accessing electronic information, he added.

This means that museums and libraries, Botticelli says, have begun to serve the public in a different way.

One example of that can be found on the UA campus.

“We know what our customers want. They want more electronic resources available and we’ve been focusing on that," says Gabrielle Sykes-Casavant, special assistant to the library’s dean. “They can get to the library from their laptop, office computer or from home. They don’t have to physically be in the building.”

The Main Library has 535,000 electronic books and 77,000 electronic journals and had more than 6.8 million visits to its online databases during the fiscal year that ended June 30, she added.

The library also has created Web-based learning modules, with offerings that cover topics including plagiarism, American history and how to conduct a search for academic material.

And the Center for Creative Photography, which is part of the UA's library system, is digitizing nearly 100,000 works form its art photography collection and archive.

To quantify what is happening elsewhere, DigIn student Jason Kucsma pointed to the “How Much Information?” study conducted by University of California at Berkeley.

The study estimated that more than 5 exabytes of information had been produced in 2002 – that’s about 37,000 Library of Congress collections. Of that amount, the study found that more than 90 percent of new information was stored in a digital format.

“I entered the SIRLS program with an understanding that librarianship is about a lot more than the physical items housed in a typical academic or public library,” says Kucsma, a graduate student in both the school’s graduate and DigIn programs.

"I think the certificate affords students the unique opportunity to be on the front lines of digital information management,” Kucsma says. “It seems obvious to me that librarians focusing on digital information management will have plenty of opportunities to be major players in developing strategies to manage this information.”

Like others, Kucsma says “we’re at a crossroads” and that without strategies such as the DigIn program records of cultural and political history could be lost.


Resources for the media

Bruce Fulton

School of Information Resources and Library Science