East Carolina University (ECU) in Greenville, NC, is a Films On Demand subscriber. We recently talked with Cynthia Shirkey, head of collection development at ECU’s J.Y. Joyner Library, about how her library handles technophobes, what she thinks the library’s most important responsibility is, and how she makes the most of the library’s budget.
Tell us one way you’re helping users who may be hesitant to embrace technology to take advantage of your library’s online resources.
One of the ways we help people take advantage of our online resources is that we have many different ways of offering assistance. We have two desks where people can walk up and ask questions: the Circulation Desk and the Research and Instruction Services Desk. We have phones at each of those desks. We also have chat and text reference. Basically, if someone wanted to fly a paper airplane in to our staff, we’d do our best to answer back. In addition to all this, most weeks the library is open 142 hours. We try to be there for students, staff, and faculty as much as possible.
What is your favorite part of being a librarian?
For me, as the head of collection development, it’s shaping the library’s collection for the people who use it right now and for generations to come. You have to strike a balance between now and later, and that’s what’s fun for me.
What do you think is the library’s most important responsibility at your institution?
Being accountable. We have to be accountable for money spent, space used, items bought, items discarded, and the work life of our library staff, faculty, and students.
What have you done that has most impacted usage at your college?
I started a successful pilot program for streaming media. We had a really remarkable response to Films On Demand. With Films On Demand, we’re meeting a large variety of demands and seeing a lot of usage of media.
How do you alert faculty to the new resources your library acquires?
We try several different approaches. When we get a new resource like a database, we email the department library representative(s). We also try to send a few targeted emails to individual faculty we know who might be interested in the new database. The liaison librarians also are very good at highlighting new resources in meetings we might have or information sessions with new faculty.
Tell us how you are making the most out of your library budget in these uncertain economic times.
This is our biggest challenge from my point of view. We scrutinize every dollar and try to make the most of our funds. We are very big on tying use to spending, so we do that with book buying by using a budgeting formula that takes into account both use and average cost. We accomplish that with larger purchases such as databases, back files, and journals by looking at usage statistics. We cut where we can if usage does not justify paying the price for a resource. We change resources if we need to, as well. For example, a couple of years ago, our Electronic Resources Review Committee started hearing that our statistical databases were not getting the job done. We were able to cut two or three and subscribe to one that had previously been out of reach with the money we saved.