Wireless Library Aids Student Productivity

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The development of the wireless World Wide Web is the evolution of several different technologies coming together to make the Internet more accessible. Technologies such as telecommunications, the Internet and mobile computing have merged to form the wireless Internet. And like any other university, the University of Dallas has its own library for the benefit of its students, faculty and staff. However, in addition to the conventional resources found in a traditional library, the University of Dallas’ William A. Blakley Library is wireless.

Wireless Network Connects Students, Library

A wireless network permits a library to give all of its users high-speed access to the Internet as well as to its online resources. Students access the resources using laptops with wireless connections to the Internet and the library’s intranet, while being seated inside or outside of the library within the radius allowed by the receiver/transponder (about 300 feet). They can walk the library aisles looking for the publications that the search engine pointed them to using their laptop’s wireless connection. Students can also work in groups or individually inside or outside of the library using their laptop’s wireless network as a research resource.

Considering the increasing demand of students, this change has been made for the use of computers, as well as for their research and presentations. Students would normally have to wander around the library searching for a vacant terminal to use, resulting in a delay of time and late submission of projects, especially for those students who don’t own a PC and depend on university resources for their research assignments. Even when looking for a publication in the same library, students would need to use the computer to check on its availability. Now, armed with a laptop, students can sit wherever they want inside the library without being connected through cables — surfing the Internet and all of the library’s online resources.

The University of Dallas Graduate School of Management was one of the first universities in the United States to offer an MBA program that specializes in e-business, among 12 other majors. It was also one of the first universities to offer all of its e-business courses online. This illustrates its desire of using technology to better prepare professionals, which has spearheaded the implementation of innovations such as a wireless library. Students can now check out a wireless network card to plug into their laptops, or check out a laptop computer in the library to access the online library database and/or the Internet to complete their research assignments.

Online Research Services

There are many search engines on the Internet, but for academic research it is sometimes necessary to use other specialized online databases with access to abstracts and/or full text of peer-reviewed journal articles, proceedings, theses and dissertations. The Blakley Library also has its own Web site (www.udallas.edu/library) and a collection of resources that include more than 180,000 titles and 2,000 journal subscriptions, as well as electronic access to 90 databases. The library also has an “Electronic Resources Guide” for all of the university’s students, staff and faculty. The guide provides a short definition of what each database contains, while the search engine conducts the search using the traditional parameter(s) provided by the user.

Currently, the university is looking forward to improving its service with tools like the one offered by Online Computer Library Center Inc. (OCLC), which provides an affordable tool that helps create and legally customize an integrated gateway to the library’s electronic resources. Among some of its features, the service can set up access to the library’s electronic resources, integrate them in one search interface, customize this interface to offer local information, create links from the existing library home page, as well as provide patron authentication via an IP address.

Questia Media Inc. also offers a powerful search tool that is being analyzed. The tool allows researchers to search through a full selection of credible, high-quality books and journals by word, phrase or concept. Users can view, copy and paste text from any page of any book; save them online; or compose new papers. The Blakley Library is also looking into implementing a service by ebrary Inc. that would allow authors and publishers to protect their copyright from such things as photocopying a book. The service enables publishers to use the Internet to maximize exposure and generate revenue, while maintaining their copyright protection; therefore, users can effectively research, analyze, understand and acquire protected information.

The Future

One constraint of wireless capabilities is the amount of bandwidth available for data transmission. The current infrastructure puts a greater burden on current bandwidths available for wireless transmissions, so alternate bandwidths must be opened. In addition, the security measures typically implemented with a wireless application delivery approach can add to the costs, making the computing system more complex to administer and use.

The next three years will see the convergence of two major trends: software as a service, and the rapid growth of wireless network and device capabilities (Citrix Systems 2001). The University of Dallas’ Blakley Library is truly a sample of what an innovative university library should be in an environment where progress is a law of life.

Reference

Citrix Systems Inc. 2001. Wireless Application Access White Paper.

Online Resources

  • ebrary
    www.ebrary.com
  • Online Computer Library Center Inc.
    www.oclc.org/home
  • Questia Media Inc.
    www.questia.com
  • This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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