Rice University and Fondren Library

Rice University was chartered and endowed by William Marsh Rice, a Massachusetts merchant who moved to Houston in 1839 and made his fortune trading cotton and investing in land and railroads. After Rice’s death in 1900, the school’s first president – a young mathematician and astronomer at Princeton University named Edgar Odell Lovett – toured universities around the world, looking for faculty and ideas with an eye toward creating a university “of the highest grade” on the plains of Texas. The school opened in 1912, with 77 students and 12 faculty.

Today, Rice boasts a student body of 3,485 undergraduates and 2,275 graduate students, a world-class faculty – including two Nobel Prize winners – and a generous endowment. Located in central Houston, it is consistently ranked as one of America’s best teaching and research universities.

The University’s Fondren Library is home to over 2.6 million print volumes and subscribes to 72,000 journals and periodicals. Collections include: the Woodson Research Center (rare books and manuscripts and the University archives); the Kelley Center for Government Information (U.S. and Texas government publications and U.S. patents and trademarks); The Brown Fine Arts Collection (art, architecture, classical archaeology and music); and a rich collection of science and engineering materials.

Why BookScan Station?
As a research university library with sophisticated needs and a strong endowment, Fondren Library already had expensive high-end scanners with large scanning beds and book edges capable of high resolution scans and loaded with image manipulation software. So the BookScan Station’s patented beveled edge – designed to protect the spine from stress and damage – and its large scanner bed were “nice, but not a make-or-break point,” said Diane Butler, Assistant University Librarian for IT. The problem was, those $25,000 to $30,000 scanners were too complicated for many people to use. “People would put signs up saying the scanners were out of order, and they weren’t,” she said. They just didn’t know how to use them.”

Librarians recognized that most patrons weren’t turning to the scanners for super high resolution or Photoshop capabilities – they just wanted to turn book and paper resources into the digital format that today’s students demand. What they needed, said Butler, was a scanner that was simple enough for anyone to use. So, in April of 2010, Rice University installed a BookScan Station near the Fondren Library reference desk.

A simple pairing of a flatbed scanner with an intuitive touch-screen computer interface makes the BookScan Station so easy to use that most people don’t even need the one-page instruction sheet posted nearby, said Butler. Users can save their scans to a USB drive or e-mail it to themselves as a digital PDF, Word, or graphic file, and built-in optical character recognition technology means scanned documents can be searched and edited.

The response from students has been overwhelmingly positive, said Marcus Elizondo, Desktop Support Specialist at Fondren Library. “When we implemented the BookScan Station, people said ‘Great! I don’t have to make a photocopy anymore.’ Now, I’ll walk by and see people with 10 books stacked up, scanning just what they need from those books. It’s going straight to their e-mail or to their USB device they keep in their pocket. They scan the materials and then sit down at their computer and there they are.”

Less than six months later, Rice purchased two more BookScan Stations. And Butler says both librarians and patrons are pleased with the units.

“The BookScan Stations have done exactly what we bought them to do,” she said. “It’s just something that’s easy, low maintenance – and they are very low maintenance – that sits there and people use it. And they love it, because it’s free to scan. Students especially love it because they want the digital file – they don’t like paper. That’s one of the biggest selling points for this machine.”

Special Considerations
Rice University charges for printing, and Fondren Library has a pay-for-print station near the public reference computers. When the first BookScan Station was installed, the decision was made to keep the scans free for both students and visitors.

“We talked about whether we wanted to lock this down to Rice only or not,” said Butler. “In the end we decided to put it out there, open to anyone and there would be no charge. We figured that, if it got abused we would re-think that, but we have not had to do that.”

So far, however, the BookScan Station’s scan-to-print option is not enabled on the two units in public areas. Patrons who want to print must save the scans, then use the library’s existing pay-for-print station as usual.

“The future of library materials is digital. Patrons are driving that. If materials are already digital they use them, but for the traditional, non-digital materials, they are using the BookScan Station and making their own digital files. . . . This is just the next step in digital information.”
Marcus Elizondo,
Desktop Support Specialist at Rice University’s Fondren Library

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