The M.D. Anderson Memorial Library on the main campus of the University of Houston is the largest and most centrally located library in the UH Libraries system. Originally built in 1950, it has had three major additions – the Blue Wing in 1968, the Brown Wing in 1977 and the Gold Wing in 2005. This most recent expansion was part of a major renovation of the library, which added 48% more space, allowing the collection to grow from 1.6 million volumes to 2.4 million volumes. In addition, the renovation added a 24-hour study area, more than 140 networked workstations accessing about 180 electronic databases, and a café. First and foremost an academic library, the University of Houston Libraries system serves the general public as well as students and faculty.
Why BookScan Station?
In response to demand for digital materials, the library wanted to offer patrons the ability to scan books and periodicals, rather than copy them. “It was something we wanted to add, and we tried other scanners, but the pricing wouldn’t work,” said Jacob Honey, shelving services manager at the M.D. Anderson Library. In addition, librarians wanted a product that was easy to use. “Our photo copiers are full featured enough to confuse people,” he said.
The affordability of the BookScan Station meant the library could purchase three units. Two were placed in a centralized copy station area in the basement, right next to the existing public photo copiers and conveniently close to the library’s collection of current journals and government documents. Another unit was placed on the 3rd floor of the new Gold Wing, with easy access for those using the general collection.
The BookScan Station’s combination of a flatbed scanner paired with a touch-screen computer has been an immediate hit with students. Most are scanning academic journals, or books, digitizing only the pages they need for their research. Still others are scanning their own papers in order to conveniently store them on their USB drives and laptops.
For students, the BookScan Station offers the advantage of turning printed materials into digital file formats of their choice that can be searched and edited, thanks to built-in optical character recognition technology. For librarians, the units have relieved them of the constant ‘How do I . . .’ questions they get with the copy machines.
“For me, the whole benefit of having these scanners is that the instructions on the screen lead people through the steps so clearly that they don’t have to seek staff assistance,” said Honey. “That has been a real blessing.”
The University of Houston uses a card system to charge for printing and photo copying. Students get a $25 printing credit loaded onto their “Cougar 1Card” each semester that allows them to print up to 500 single-sided black and white pages or 333 double-sided black and white pages per semester at no charge. After that, they can add money to their card, and are charged 5 cents per page for single-sided copies or 3 ¾ cents per face for double sided.
Instead of adding card-swipe components to the BookScan Stations, the University of Houston linked the scanners into the existing system. That means that the scans are free if they go to e-mail or USB drive. But if students want to scan to print, the scans are sent to the printers in the first floor Learning Commons computer lab – the same printer set used by all the PC and MacIntosh computers in that area.
So if a student scans a document on the BookScan Stations in the basement, they must then go upstairs to the learning commons printer stations and swipe their card to find and release their print job. This has created some concern when the scanners are in heavy use, said Honey. “When people get up to the right set of printers, they only have it easy if they were the only person scanning,” he said. “Otherwise, they could potentially release someone else’s job and be charged for it.”
This inconvenience – and the fact that the scans are free, while printing is not – may be encouraging students to scan to USB and e-mail instead of to the printers. Or it may be that most people simply prefer to use materials digitally instead of having hard copies. “I have no way of knowing that,” said Honey, adding that “people are using (the BookScan Stations) plenty and I have not heard any complaints about it. I would expect that the printing set-up would engender more questions from the public than I get if they wanted that.”
On the whole, he said, the BookScan Stations “have been so problem free that people haven’t been coming over to ask questions or give feedback.”
Cost and ease-of-use were the University of Houston’s main goals in choosing BookScan Stations for the M.D. Anderson Library. But using less paper by going digital has been an added bonus.
“It is one of the university’s goals, so it’s the kind of thing we do whenever we can,” said Honey.
Honey expects that, in the years ahead, more and more students will choose the BookScan Stations over traditional photo copiers. First, it offers the advantage of transforming paper-and-ink materials into an easy to use digital format and the convenience of saving them onto a USB plug-in or sending it by e-mail. “You can’t do that on the copiers,” he said. In addition, the scans are free, while the copiers and printers are not. For now, though, he sees the BookScan Station as a complement to the library’s photo copiers – not a replacement.
“The BookScan station is easy to use and the pricing meant we could have multiple units. But the main thing for me as a staff member is the ability for patrons to handle it themselves. It’s one of the easiest-to-use pieces of equipment in the library. People have a harder time with the staplers.”
Shelving services manger
M.D. Anderson Memorial Library, University of Houston