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Library use on the rise

To the Editor:

Last week in an article and subsequent cartoon, The Daily Pennsylvanian implied that use of Penn Libraries is in decline. To correct the record, I offer a few relevant metrics.

In the five years between 2003 and 2007 (our latest complete statistics), circulation of books, videos, audio materials, microforms and laptop computers increased by some 20,000 items.

Penn's use of interlibrary lending services grew 11 percent and Penn's lending to partner libraries, including the Ivies, increased more than 20 percent. Gate counts grew by 8 percent, exceeding 2 million visits in 2007. The number of course sites supported by the Libraries' Blackboard service rose by 155 percent. And the number of students attending library instructional sessions increased 5 percent, with attendance now approaching 20,000.

In addition to these increases, the Libraries have satisfied Penn's tremendous appetite for electronic information.

Our tracking systems recorded 2.4 million logins to library databases and electronic journals, in 2007. Some three million e-journal articles are now downloaded by Penn students and faculty each year.

As the transition to electronic information unfolds, and as curriculum priorities evolve, all academic libraries are experiencing shifts in their service outputs.

For this reason, book circulation is beginning to level-off in certain fields, but as the DP article on 9/29 notes, multi-media, primarily in video formats, is rising dramatically.

This reflects Penn's growing interest in cinema and media studies and underscores our basic priority, to support the teaching and research programs of the university.

Even as the Libraries have handled rising information demand, we have introduced new services designed to enrich the academic experience at Penn.

We've developed an exciting, and exclusive, tagging service (PennTags) that helps students to build and organize online bibliographies.

We've opened new media creation facilities in the Weigle Information Commons, and added technologies that help students develop classroom presentations.

We've expanded building hours at exam time and now offer an online room reservation system to help alleviate rising pressure on our group study spaces. And we've set up Chat and IM services which provide instantaneous access to research help.

We encourage and wish eagerly to contribute to a better understanding of how libraries work in the academic world. Students deserve that transparency, and the DP can help by accurately researching and reporting, especially when the facts involve essential University services.

Joe Zucca The author is Director for Planning and Communication for Penn Libraries

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