Today's university libraries look more like a Starbucks café rather than the vast dimly lit rooms of yore. The rows and rows of desks and bookshelves have been replaced by a more relaxed approach where students can gather and discuss, while materials can be accessed electronically day or night.
The catalyst for all this change is technology, says Abu Dhabi University Director of Libraries Dr Mustafa Abdul Wahid.
The nature of the way students use libraries has dramatically changed according to changes in technology and there is a huge increase in using e-books, he said. "You can access them from anywhere and you don't need to be physically in the library you just need a user name and password."
ADU recently completed a development plan for its libraries on its Abu Dhabi and Al Ain campuses, acquiring materials to bring the collection to more than 100,000 books and reference works plus 100 e-databases.
About 15,000 to 20,000 books are in Arabic for courses such as Islamic studies and Sharia law, although the university uses English as a medium of instruction for all other programmes.
Because the majority of these books are in electronic format, which is the wave of the future, says Dr Abdul Wahid, libraries don't look the same as they did ten years ago. Even the field of librarianship has changed with the times, he said.
Today libraries do not contain many journals or books in print. "We still have a small collection of general reading and magazines and it's mainly for student leisure it's not related to academic programmes."
The layout of the library has changed as well. "What you will see now are small discussion rooms, and the seating has changed to a more Starbucks environment we'll have five or six colourful chairs in a group for the students," Dr Abdul Wahid said.
Sourcing books is easier for students these days. Instead of driving around to different libraries they can request titles from the librarian who will find the books and have them delivered to the most convenient location.
Other library services include online databases and counselling services to students through different social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and students have the opportunity to send their requests to the library's website where queries will be answered promptly by library science specialists.
Although more books and journals are more widely available than ever before, Dr Abdul Wahid says Arabic texts are hard to source. "When it comes to professional review journals, they are very few and not available in electronic format."
From / Gulf News