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Making History – Again – at the University of Tulsa Library
A 120-year-old institution modernized collections and discovery services by partnering with ProQuest
By Alison Roth
In the late 1800s, the institution that would eventually become The University of Tulsa established its first library. As one of the oldest academic library systems in the United States, the Oklahoma-based institution is well-versed in global health emergencies; in addition to the COVID crisis, the future University of Tulsa also shut its doors during the influenza pandemic of 1918.
Now, as the University of Tulsa plans to return to in-person instruction for the next school year, the library system looks quite different. Its five on-campus locations serve 3,600 full-time students and include an academic library, a law library, a world-renowned special collections department and much more.
“The University of Tulsa is a historic liberal arts college, but we are making the transition to supporting STEM and digital programs while still maintaining that liberal-arts college environment,” said Elizabeth Szkirpan, Director of Bibliographic Services for McFarlin Library. “We’re very proud of our shift to supporting liberal arts and STEM education in equal parts.”
In preparation for the new academic year, the library took a step toward further modernizing its collections and services by recently adopting two new ProQuest and Ex Libris products: the Academic Complete ebook subscription and the Summon discovery solution. Szkirpan and her colleague Jaymi Bouziden, Tulsa’s Library Systems Administrator, spent a few minutes talking to ProQuest about their experience.
ProQuest: How have the needs of your library evolved over the past few years?
TU: Before the pandemic shut our doors, the library was already discussing modernization. We had not traditionally focused on electronic resources, but as we began to run out of physical space in our building, it was already becoming more common for us to consider [e-resources]. We had many older products we were relying on, and our students and researchers wanted and deserved better content and functionality. We couldn’t undertake anything too work-intensive due to lack of staff, so we considered what kinds of changes we could make that would still improve our library services.
ProQuest: Why did you choose Academic Complete for your ebook subscription?
TU: Academic Complete checks so many boxes. It’s a core collection that is modern, easy to use, cuts costs, and allows us to provide more materials for our community. It has many title options for so many disciplines. It helps us inform our collection development from an electronic perspective.
Many of Academic Complete’s resources can be used in different disciplines, and at so many different levels – students, staff, faculty. We’ve been able to transition a multitude of small ebook collections to much larger, more all-encompassing collection.
ProQuest: Why did you consider Summon for your discovery service?
TU: We were previously using another discovery service, but we had staff and students commenting that it didn’t look very modern. So many of our students expect the “Amazon shopping experience” – they like a clean platform, instant access, and relevant search results.
Summon is modern, streamlined, and extremely cost-effective. The administration side is easier. It’s being continuously being developed and improved, and we’re able to help shape it to do what we need it to do. The search results are just phenomenal compared to what we were getting before.
The transition was seamless for our users. Researchers – who have been working on the same research projects for years – are finding results they’ve never found before.
ProQuest: How did ProQuest and Ex Libris support you along the transition?
TU: We can’t say enough good things about working with the ProQuest and Ex Libris teams. It was a few crazy months of working to get contracts signed, setting up demos, making decisions, and switching off our legacy platforms. We felt very supported along the way.
The ProQuest and Ex Libris teams were always available to meet with us and answer our questions – and at no point did we ever feel like we were free-falling through this process. Working with them was seamless!
ProQuest: Now that you’ve implemented these resources for your users, what’s next for the future of the University of Tulsa library?
TU: Over the past two years we’ve obviously to pivot, and it was all-hands-on-deck to get all our resources strictly online to support virtual and hybrid instruction and research. We’ve already done a lot of work in the library to support bring on more e-resources, and we’ll continue down that path to make sure our users have anytime, anywhere access whenever they need it.