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Everett Library goes high tech

Everett LibraryCarol Walker Jordan

The first media revolution to sweep Queens' campus took place in 1960, when the library moved from its previous home in Burwell Hall to a new, state-of-the-art, 36,000-square-foot building.  With the opening of Everett Library, Queens put learning at the center of campus. The move required the librarian, who had lived in an apartment right beside the library in Burwell, to walk across campus for her daily commute. 

Today, a new revolution is taking place at Everett Library, one driven by technology.  From the electronic eye at the door (that clocks and counts people coming and going, thus influencing staffing decisions) to the recording studio on the second floor, technology is changing the learning environment.  Over the last decade, a dizzying number of transformations have occurred, thanks to the visionary leadership of university librarian Dr. Carol Walker Jordan.

In 2008 Dr. Jordan hired Martin Olsen, who became the library's manager of electronic resources and systems.  It's unusual for a university the size of Queens to have a dedicated library systems whiz on staff.

"Martin has taken the lead to see that the services we offer are digitally based," explains Dr. Jordan.  From a mahogany table in her second floor office,  Jordan ticks off the changes: new computers, new places to study, new places to collaborate, new databases, a self-service station, a website with 24/7 access to a librarian, online instruction, a Mac lab, a recording studio, a coffee shop.  Even the printers are a quantum leap forward.

In the recording studio, a Rode Podcaster microphone and Yamaha mixer ensure high-quality recordings.  Students use advanced computer programs like Adobe Creative Suites, Garage Band and Dream Weaver to create one-of-a-kind class presentations from their recordings.  In the Mac lab, students sit in front of the 48-inch flat screen TV to conduct interviews with people around the world via Skype, an international phone service for computers.  It's a great way to add something extra to a research project.

With so many changes, one wonders: What next? Will the digital revolution make books obsolete? Will paper be relegated to history museums?  What will the library of the future look like?

"In the future, I think books will be dispensed robotically," says Dr. Jordan. Robots will retrieve books from specialized shelving in remote rooms.  "I don't think books will be out and about the way you see them here," she adds. Portable devices and ebooks are already prominent.  In addition, libraries will become increasingly people focused. Even now, some universities are building libraries right into dorms. "Living and learning centers" mix floors of residence halls with floors of the library. It's immersion learning, in a new way.

Living next door to the library? Sounds revolutionary, but maybe it's not as new as it seems. To the librarian who lived in Burwell Hall half a century ago, it would have sounded like home sweet home.

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