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January 28, 2014

Harold Kohn Vision Science Library Focuses on the Future

One of the greatest challenges facing any library today—particularly academic libraries—is how to properly adapt to the ever-changing landscape of new technology. In addition to understanding these technologies themselves, library administrators must also understand, and often predict, exactly how these technologies will affect how their library is utilized by those who rely on it as a vital tool for learning and research. The SUNY College of Optometry’s Harold Kohn Vision Science Library, one of the premier vision science libraries in the United States, is dealing with this systemic challenge head on.

“We certainly take advantage of training opportunities in order to keep up-to-date with best practices,” Ms. Elaine Wells, MA, MLS, Kohn Library’s director explains. “Like many institutions, libraries are in a constant state of flux in order to keep up with technological changes and shifts in how our resources are utilized.”

In order to better understand how library patrons use its facilities, Kohn Library’s staff has developed and implemented a series of benchmarks that measure digital resource use, as well as demand for the services they provide. The goal is to assess the value of current resources and activities and proactively adapt as the need arises.

“We endeavor to create a library ‘without walls,’ where most of our resources are available 24/7 in digital format,” Ms. Wells says. “Students have increasingly come to expect that their information needs will be met immediately, and while we are definitely moving in that direction, not everything they need is available online and costs can sometimes be prohibitive.” However, students still come together at the library to study, relax after exams and just spend time together. “In that way,” Ms. Wells explains,” the library remains very much at the heart of the institution and maintains an important physical presence as it always has.”

Beyond this shift toward digital content and monitoring use, the Kohn Library is also looking to facilitate seamless and lifelong learning for its entire community of constituents—students, faculty, staff, alumni, researchers and other professionals.

One of the particular areas of focus for the Kohn Library today is making sure that its broad swath of constituents who don’t regularly visit the College’s midtown Manhattan campus—particularly alumni—are fully aware of the enormous resources available to them.

“We offer a lot of services at the library that many people might not know about,” says Ms. Kim Oliver, the Kohn Library’s outreach and services coordinator.  “These services include personalized assistance with research and access to journals and other information,” she notes. “We also strive to ensure that all of SUNY Optometry’s faculty and staff, including adjuncts and alumni, know how to access everything we can offer them.”

In addition, alumni and adjunct faculty can register for services like journal table of contents delivery which enables them to see what is being published in their specific area of interest as soon as it becomes available. Practitioners and researchers with special patient care needs or areas of research interest can also get assistance with automated searches so that they can scan the latest articles for new developments. Adjuncts and alumni are also able to search the online catalog from the library’s website and can borrow any circulating book.

The Kohn Library also sends out a quarterly newsletter to the community that provides reminders about its services as well as articles on ongoing research, upcoming events and new publications.  

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For more information about the Harold Kohn Vision Science Library, and for a complete list of their services visit http://www.sunyopt.edu/library