Pittsburgh Technical College (PTC) in Oakdale, PA, is a Films On Demand subscriber. We recently talked with Mary Fistler—library coordinator at PTC—about how her library handles technophobes, her favorite part of being a librarian, and more.
Tell us one way you’re helping users who may be hesitant to embrace technology to take advantage of your library’s online resources.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the library at PTC hosts the Skills Lab. Students who require tutoring or those simply seeking extra help can find General Education faculty in our computer lab for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. It is the ideal location for its wealth of resources. Faculty and a full-time reference librarian take the mystery away and work to increase students’ confidence.
What is your favorite part of being a librarian?
My favorite part of being a librarian is creating opportunities for learning. The PTC Speaker Series began with the idea that those who have achieved a terminal degree in their field should be provided a platform to share with the PTC community what they learned and discovered on their journey. Then I had faculty who were authoring books, nonfiction as well as fiction, and I knew my scope was too narrow, for they are recognized authorities as well. So, with the conviction that one member’s success elevates the entire community, I invite these faculty to speak, using whatever format they prefer. This process exposes students to academic discourse and provides them an opportunity to engage the speaker and practice dialoguing.
What do you think is the library’s most important responsibility at your institution?
The single most important thing the library can do is be responsive to the needs/demands of the faculty and student body. Year in and year out, we do what all academic institutions do and review the college catalog to ensure that our holdings support each and every class that is being taught. We encourage the faculty to review our shelves and make recommendations. Our college operates on a quarterly system. We are in session all year round. Each quarter is roughly 11 weeks. If a student needs a book, it doesn’t make sense to use interlibrary loan. It takes too long. So I buy the book and Amazon can deliver it in two days. If it is available through our eBook provider, they can have it the same day. I find that, if one student needs the book, eventually someone else will require it. The same applies to faculty. From books to databases, everything is triggered by faculty requests.
What have you done that has most impacted usage at your college?
It’s an unending challenge. We have created a bibliography for every course that is taught. That list is accessed through the library web pages. It seems every book I buy is destined for a particular course. Our statistics bear witness that programs who receive a library orientation during their first quarter will use the resources more readily. Since faculty drive usage through their assignments, we train new faculty during their orientation. In addition, databases are always changing, and we make ourselves available to review them with faculty. When resources appear underutilized, we arrange webinars for faculty to receive database training directly from the source providers.
How do you alert faculty to the new resources your library acquires?
I will send an email. Once items are cataloged, put on a bibliography, and checked out, I walk them to the faculty. If they are not there, the material is left with a note. Otherwise, a lively conversation usually ensues, and I gain insight into the direction a technology is moving.
Tell us how you are making the most out of your library budget in these uncertain economic times.
Database costs increase 5% annually, and that outpaces an academic library budget. Purveyors of online academic resources offer valuable products. At PTC, we offer bachelor’s and associate’s degrees and certificates across 30+ programs, and as the librarian, I’ve found that online resources have great appeal, appearing to address every need. I am loyal to companies like Infobase that go the extra mile to find materials my faculty need. I am discontinuing a long-time-held database that has outpriced itself in our cost-to-usage analysis. This company I only heard from when it was time to renew. I am loyal to salespeople who have demonstrated concern that the students get the best resources possible and understand my academic operations. The money saved from realigning our resources allows me to explore the use of smaller databases more tailored to specific programs taught at PTC. When we remain focused on our students’ success, all succeed.