Mar 01 2001
Electronic resources are becoming increasingly important to all types of libraries. How does this impact traditional library collections, and how do librarians keep up with the changes? In an online continuing education course, Jane Pearlmutter, faculty associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library & Information Studies, has been teaching librarians around the country and the world to select and evaluate these resources, develop policies, and consider methods of delivering electronic resources to library users. She developed the first version of the course, Virtual Collection Development, in 1997-98 with the assistance of a grant from UW-Extension.
Participants connect from their libraries or homes via the World Wide Web, and use WebCT courseware to do readings, post assignments, discuss the topics with other students, create student web pages, and contact the instructor. The course is composed of six modules which correspond to the six weeks of the course. In each module there is a short “lecture,” readings for the week (which include articles from electronic journals and links to other web sites), and discussion questions or projects. Most students report working four to six hours per week on the course.
On the course Bulletin Board (rather than in a realtime “chat”), students discuss topics such as the evolving responsibilities of a collection development librarian; budgeting and reallocating funds from print to electronic resources; selection tools for Internet resources, databases and electronic journals; negotiating licenses; cataloging and access issues; filtering; and copyright issues. Students also may e-mail the instructor with private questions or comments.
In ten sessions of Virtual Collection Development, Pearlmutter has had over 500 students from almost every state and 20 other countries. Students appreciate the exchange of information with librarians in a wide variety of locations and types of libraries. Ellen Buchberger, an early participant in the course, commented, “This has been a fascinating and valuable experience once I learned what I was doing. There was so much good information here, especially the readings and diverse comments from a wide range of librarians. This method of course presentation is going to be the way of the future, and I’m glad to be in at the beginning.” Helena Mlekus, participating from Ljublana, Slovenia, said, “I was very glad to participate at the Internet course and I have learned a lot from the course materials as well as from the answers of other participants.” Another librarian, Vicky Tsai, wrote, “The lectures, readings and discussions in this course has given me a panoramic picture of the issues we are facing in our transition to electronic resources, and the various ways librarians are dealing with them; also brought into light are future issues we may have to tackle on this “runaway” train.” Diane Rein, a library school student taking the course, commented on the international aspect of distance education, “Another take home lesson for me, was never, ever to forget that virtual collection means internationalization and globalization of resources.”
The course was originally created in Lotus Notes/LearningSpace software and redesigned for WebCT when UW-Madison began its WebCT pilot project in the fall of 1998. Most students find this software very easy to use and report that they would take another course in this format. In addition, students benefit from the fortuitous match of the teaching medium with the subject matter. UW-Madison’s School of Library & Information Studies is now offering basic Cataloging in this format, with plans for additional continuing education courses delivered via WebCT.
The online courses are offered year-round. More information about the continuing education program and distance education courses can be found on UW-Madison’s web site.
Jane Pearlmutter, director of continuing education for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies, conducts frequent workshops and online courses on issues surrounding and applications of new information technology.