Whitworth University and the Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library

The Library
Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library is the main library at Whitworth University, one of the top regional colleges in the Western United States. Founded in 1890. Whitworth’s stated mission is to provide an education of mind and heart through rigorous intellectual inquiry guided by dedicated Christian scholars. Located at the very center of the 200-acre campus in Spokane, WA, the library houses over 184,000 print volumes and 630 print periodicals in addition to extensive electronic and on-line resources. Materials include a library of musical scores and recordings; an education curriculum library of elementary and secondary textbooks and teaching reference materials; a special collection of over 1,500 photography books; a special collection on the Pacific Northwest Protestant history; and the Whitworth College archives.

The Library Director, Hans Bynagle, is also treasurer for the Inland Northwest Council of Libraries (INCOL), a consortium of 21 academic and public libraries in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, and a member of the American Library Association and the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Why BookScan Station?
Heavily used by the university’s 3,000 students, as well as faculty and staff, the library wanted to offer an alternative to the library’s two pay-per-page copiers that would be gentler on books – particularly fragile materials – and would require less assistance by library staff. They chose BookScan Station, installing their first unit in April 2010, shortly before the end of Spring Semester. Usage was light over the summer, but quickly picked up when students returned to campus. By the end of Fall Semester, the first machine had logged 13,626 scans, predominantly saved as PDFs and searchable PDFs. In response to the BookScan Station’s popularity, the library purchased a second unit, which was installed in late November 2010.

The first thing that drew Bynagle and his staff to the BookScan Station was the patented beveled edge on the scanning bed that allows the page being copied to lie flat on the glass while the rest of the book hangs over. This not only protects the spine of the book from stress and damage; it also eliminates the black ‘gutter’ and distorted image created by trying to press a book flat on a traditional copier or scanner. The copy machines in the library were special ordered from a manufacturer that offers a similar book-edge solution, but students rarely used them properly, said Bynagle.

“Because students are paying for copies, they want to get two pages per copy. On the BookScan Station, because they are not paying for scans, they don’t have that incentive, so they use them the way they are meant to be used, and they are not pushing down on fragile books.”

Ease of use was another major consideration, said Bynagle, and they were impressed with the simplicity of BookScan Station’s innovative touch screen interface. There’s no need to know anything about scanning software. Library users simply follow step-by-step instructions on the screen, including a photo display of how to place a book on the scanner bed. The touch-screen prompts make even advanced scanning features easy – like selecting just part of the page; changing the resolution; scanning in color, black and white, or grayscale; and choosing to save the file as a searchable PDF, a Word document, or a photo file format.

“The system looked like it was very intuitive and would not require a lot of handling by library staff,” said Bynagle. “And that has been proved true. We have rarely been asked for assistance. With photo copiers that was constant – ‘How do I reduce? How do I enlarge? How do I do that?’ The BookScan Station takes care of most things automatically. For example, it rotates pages so they all end up facing up. Whatever you need to do, the machine either does it for you or it’s pretty intuitive how you can do it. Also impressive is the number of capabilities as to how you can save the files – pdf, searchable pdf, word, and photo image types. Those are attractive and people like to use them.”

Finally, the library liked the large size of the BookScan Station’s scanner bed. “We have a special collection of photography books with works by well-known photographers that came to us,” said Bynagle. “The books don’t circulate, but students in classes using that collection needed something that could capture a high-quality image which this does. And photo books are often a larger size, so we specifically wanted to be sure that need was met. There are other scanners out there that can do that, but those machines, to tell the truth, are extremely expensive and we wanted to stay away from charging for scanning. BookScan Station was a cost-effective solution that met our needs and the needs of the students.”

Unexpected Benefits
The university archive, housed within the library, also got a boost. Among the materials there are college catalogs dating back to the school’s founding in 1890, which are often used by students researching how historical issues are reflected in the school’s course offerings at the time. For example, said Bynagle, students researching women’s history can see that older catalogs include information on the Rhodes Scholarship, but state that it is only available for men.

“So we have classes using the materials, but that’s hard on archival materials,” he said. And the oldest catalogs – from 1890 to 1928 – were not even in the archives because the only copies in existence were in the registrar’s office, which was not keen on giving them up. So, over the summer, the library staff scanned all the materials, printed out two full sets, and backed them up on CD-ROM. “It was a great project to have the BookScan Station for, because the copies the registrar had were bound, and we were able to put them on the beveled edge and capture the image all the way to the edge and not damage them or have to push down real hard.” Now, registrar and students each have a printed copy to work with, and the fragile originals are in the archives where they belong.

The second unit, in particular, has helped the archives. The first BookScan Station was set up in the existing copier alcove, located near the library entrance and the main desk. But the second unit was placed closer to the reference desk and archives. “If people are working with materials we feel we need to keep an eye on, like archival materials, they are asked to work there,” said Bynagle. “These are fragile materials that are irreplaceable.”

“Libraries today are very much about on-line resources, but they still have extensive print collections and many things are only available that way. Many students are reluctant to use those collections because they see them as more trouble. If we provide them with a convenient and inexpensive – like free—way to convert print into an electronic format, it will encourage the utilization of the print collections.
Hans Bynagle, Director of the Harriet Cheney Cowles Library at Whitworth University

Comments are closed.