Villanova University Compares BookScan Station to the Competition

Villanova University is the oldest and largest Catholic university in Pennsylvania. Founded in 1842, it now has a student body of over 10,000 students in five colleges: Liberal Arts and Sciences (Villanova College), Engineering, School of Business, Nursing and the School of Law. It was ranked #1 in the Best Universities and Masters category for the Northern Region by U.S. News and World Report, and is well-known for its excellent programs in engineering, nursing, business and law.

Villanova’s Falvey Memorial Library serves as the premier source of learning and research materials for the University community. The collection of approximately one million volumes includes print, electronic and audiovisual resources, as well as specialized materials reflecting the school’s Augustinian heritage and character. The library is open to the public, but is primarily focused on serving the university community. Each year, Falvey welcomes over 463,000 physical visits, and over 495,000 virtual visits to access its collection.

BookScan Station: A side-by-side comparison.
One of Falvey Memorial Library’s stated goals is to embrace technological innovation and resources in order to provide the Villanova community with a full range of the highest quality media services. So when the old flat-bed scanner and PC combination that the library offered for public use started to wear out, they decided to thoroughly research their options.

“We had always tried to provide some type of scan option for students, but we didn’t have a robust option,” said Joe Lucia, University Librarian and director of Falvey Memorial Library. “We basically had consumer-grade equipment instead of something that was designed for a high volume environment. We wanted something that would stand up over time and heavy use, and have better capabilities.”

The library arranged to conduct a one-month side-by-side comparison between the BookScan Station and a new Canadian-made overhead scanning device. The overhead scanner takes images from a book or document held face-up on a platen. The BookScan Station, in contrast, pairs an over-sized flatbed scanner with a simple touch-screen computer interface.

“We wanted to see what the students would prefer, and whether or not we could determine any patterns in terms of ease of use between the overhead versus the flatbed scanner, and whether that made any difference for amount of use,” said Lucia. “The real issue wasn’t the type of device, but the overall usability and quality of scanning.”

The two scanning systems were set up side-by-side in front of the main service desk on the first floor of Falvey Library. It’s a busy location, and also one where librarians could observe patrons using the scanners and get feedback. Those using the systems were asked to fill out a survey form asking about their overall satisfaction; which features were most helpful; which features were least helpful; and, if they used both scanners, which they preferred.

The scanners were not connected to printers, and both were available for patrons to use for free.

Conclusion: BookScan Station tops for ease of use, scan quality, and price.
The results of the comparison were indisputable. “Within a couple of weeks, it became clear the overhead scanner wasn’t working as well as we hoped it would,” said Lucia. “The scanning and the software both had problems. Also, the software was not as intuitive or easy to use. The students were not happy.” In contrast, he said, “The BookScan Station’s flatbed scanner worked.”

Luisa Cywinski, Team Leader of Access Services at Falvey Library, who works at the front desk, agreed. “We got quite a few more questions on the overhead scanner because the instructions were very poor. I think the font size was about an 8.” In contrast, she said, “The BookScan Station’s interface was very popular. It has nice large buttons, clearly labeled, that make it very easy to find the features.”

In addition to being easier to use, students also said the scan quality was better on the BookScan Station. Cywinski’s test overhead scans show distorted images, which makes the text difficult to read, especially near the dark gutter between pages. In one, her fingertips are visible as she holds the book open, and photographs on the page are marred by glare from the scanner light. But the BookScan Station has a patented beveled edge on the scanning bed designed to both protect the spine of the book from damage and eliminate the black ‘gutter’ and distorted image created by trying to press a book flat on a traditional flatbed copier or scanner. No distortion; no fingers; no glare.

In addition, BookScan Station allows patrons to scan in color, black and white, or grayscale to a variety of formats – including PDF, text-searchable PDF, and JPEG – and to adjust the image resolution. The digital files can then be saved to a USB drive or e-mailed. The overhead scanner had only one setting – to save it as a PDF to USB. “There weren’t as many adjustment options on the overhead, so it was scan-and-go,” said Lucia. “But it did not have the full range of options that the BookScan Station offers.”

“Overwhelmingly, users were more satisfied with the flatbed BookScan Station,” said Cywinski, who compiled the results of the survey. “In fact, looking at the piles of responses, I got about four times as many for the flatbed as for the overhead, which means it was used more. The feature they seemed to find most helpful was e-mail, followed by USB. The other scanner had only USB.” And, while Villanova chose not to enable the scan-to-print option on the BookScan Station, “at least we know it’s there,” said Cywinski.

Not only did students and staff prefer BookScan Station hands down – it also cost less than the overhead scanner. “In the end, it was a combination of price and performance,” said Lucia. “Competitively speaking, it was priced affordably, but it did what we wanted it to do. So we got all the benefits of (BookScan Station’s) flatbed device, and it was less costly in terms of hardware.”

The Future
At the end of the one-month trial, Villanova installed the BookScan Station permanently and is considering purchasing more and possibly enabling the option to scan to Google Docs. Already, the system has become a go-to fixture for students, who are using it for everything from capturing reference and research materials to scanning one another’s notes. “Basically, it takes the place of a photo copy,” said Lucia. “They’ll just grab an item they need a copy of and take a scan of it.”

It’s too early to tell what impact all those scans are having on the 1.4 million pages in printed and photocopied documents the library generates each year, but Lucia says it’s something the University will be tracking. “We have a variety of environmental policies and campus-wide initiatives to be more focused on resource use and environmental impact,” he said. BookScan Station’s motto of ‘Paper Free, Save a Tree’ fits right in with that commitment.

Villanova is not alone in choosing BookScan Station. In the last year, over 100 public and university libraries around the country have made the BookScan Station the industry standard for its easy-to-use, yet powerful features not available from book scanners selling for more than twice its price. Other Pennsylvania locations already using the BookScan Station include:
• Bucknell University
• Duquesne University
• Lehigh University
• Gannon University
• Shippensburg University
• Delaware Valley Community College

“Within a couple of weeks, it became clear the overhead scanner wasn’t working as well as we hoped it would. The scanning and the software both had problems. Also, the software was not as intuitive or easy to use. The students were not happy. In contrast, The BookScan Station’s flatbed scanner worked.”
Joe Lucia
University Librarian and Director
Falvey Memorial Library

“Overwhelmingly, users were more satisfied with the flatbed BookScan Station”
Luisa Cywinski
Team Leader of Access Services
Falvey Library

Comments are closed.