Ask A Librarian

WVU Libraries increases book collection to 26 million volumes

Posted by
November 13th, 2003

CONTACT: Frances O’Brien, WVU Libraries 304-293-4040 ext. 4000

Without adding another wing or more shelves, West Virginia University Libraries is about to grow its collection by about 26 million volumes.

This feat is being accomplished through joining the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium Inc., or PALCI, a group of more than 50 academic libraries in the Keystone State with a reciprocal lending and borrowing agreement. WVU and Rutgers University were the first institutions outside of Pennsylvania to be invited to participate.

PALCI enables students, faculty and staff of a member institution to use a Web site to concurrently search the holdings of all participating colleges and universities. After finding a particular title, users can then request the book be sent to a library on their campus.

For students, faculty and staff at WVU, the agreement means quick and easy access to collections at schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, Drexel University and dozens of others.

“We’re honored to share those resources,” said Randy Jenkins, interim program coordinator. “Our users are going to have a much larger database to search. It will give our users access to about 26 million books.”

That sentiment is the conventional wisdom among members.

PALCI’s success is evident in its rapid growth to include more than 50 colleges and universities. The popularity of this initiative is clearly demonstrated by its increased use. According to PALCI records, there were 1,000 requests for books each day during the months of August and September.

“That’s a lot of users taking advantage of this service,” Jenkins said.

WVU Libraries Dean Frances O’Brien is eager for library users to begin taking advantage of the collection explosion. The libraries have more than 1.4 million bound volumes but are daily filling Interlibrary Loan requests for materials not available on campus.

“We are continuously striving to enhance our resources, but that task becomes an even greater challenge during lean budget times,” O’Brien said. “PALCI enables us to provide our users with access to millions of books. Purchasing so many volumes would be beyond the reach of any academic library.”

Provost Gerald Lang, who was instrumental in securing WVU’s involvement in the consortium, said the book-sharing agreement will be of great benefit to WVU faculty and students.

“This will provide another resource for reference material for faculty and graduate students engaged in research and undergraduate students working on term papers,” Lang said. “It will be another avenue for increased access to information in this information-based society.”

Along with connecting users to books not found on the WVU campus, PALCI can also eliminate the common frustration of finding that a book is on campus but has already been checked out. If WVU Libraries has a book in its collection but it’s unavailable, users can simply redirect their search to another school. PALCI promises to fill book requests in four business days.

PALCI operates similar to Interlibrary Loan, which library employees use to request all types of materials, such as books, journal articles, microfilm and videotapes. Users make the request to library staff, who then begin the search for the item.

PALCI includes only books and allows users to search for books on their own and learn immediately what libraries have copies of a desired book and if it is available. Users will receive e-mails to inform them when their requested books leave the lending institution and arrive at WVU. They will then pick up their books at the access services desks at the Downtown Campus, Evansdale or Health Sciences libraries.

“It will be a tremendous boon for the people who have made heavy use of Interlibrary Loan in the past,” O’Brien said.

WVU Libraries expects to launch PALCI at the start of spring semester.

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