Post-Flood Services at Colorado State Library Handling Thousands of Requests; Wins Recognition from Association of Research Libraries

In a national analysis of loan programs at research universities nationwide, the Association of Research Libraries named Colorado State University’s Morgan Library the top library in borrowing efficiency.

The efficiency of this electronic service has enabled library staff to process thousands of requests for books and journals by Colorado State faculty and students since the July 28 flood.

The Interlibrary Loan Program at Colorado State allows students and faculty to request books and other materials from other universities by filling out an electronic form on the Morgan Library’s Web site. As part of the program, a specialized service was set up after the flood that allows professors and students to also make online requests for journal articles from titles damaged in the flood. The journal articles are retrieved from other libraries, faxed to one of 15 temporary document processing stations on campus and delivered directly to the professor or student who made the request. Because of the use of technology and cooperative agreements with other libraries, about 90 percent of the requests for journal articles are delivered to the recipient within 48 hours.

Library administrators say the ILL program at Morgan Library has been one of the most heavily used services since the flood. In the four-month period from September to December, the ILL program received 49,495 requests for books, journals and other materials–a 358 percent increase over the same period in 1996.

"The use of this program has skyrocketed, in part because of the efficient use of technology and the temporary document delivery stations," said Julie Wessling, the library’s assistant dean for public services. "We have received a lot of positive comments from professors and students who have used the system and who say it’s better than actually going into the library and accessing a journal on the shelf."

The Morgan Library also has instituted a number of other services and programs to help provide access to books, journals and other titles damaged in the flood that are currently unavailable on campus.

Examples include:

  • Eight online databases of books and journals, including legal publications, English and American literature, Spanish language and bilingual magazines, and complete full-text files of scholarly journals in history, math, political science and many other subjects. The Colorado Alliance for Research Libraries was able to reach agreements with the database vendors that allow Colorado State to use the services free of charge for a year. The services are worth about $250,000. Library staff is currently analyzing the popularity of each database in order to determine which ones to keep after the year of free use has ended, Wessling said.
  • The library has increased the number of student workers in its "roving assistance program," which helps users locate material that is now in temporary locations in the library because of the flood. The increase in the number of workers should help faculty and students find materials much more quickly.

"We’ve taken what was a bad situation and turned it into an opportunity to expand existing services and provide new ones," said Camila Alire, dean of libraries at Colorado State. "The efforts of the library staff and other university employees has been instrumental in the progress we’ve made in the six months since the flood."