Penn State Libraries’ Access Services opens doors, delivers content

Lana Munip
December 14, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Books mailed to your office door, articles delivered to your online account, buildings open at all times of day, virtual help when you want it — these are all popular services offered by the University Libraries and enjoyed by Penn State faculty, staff and students. Working behind the scenes and on the front line to make this possible is Access Services, a team of 63 full- and part-time staff and 40 student employees, who keep the desks staffed and the materials circulating seamlessly across the Commonwealth.

At the helm of Access Services is librarian Ann Snowman, who oversees the complex operations of the six units within this department. They include Course Reserves; Interlibrary Loan; Lending Services; Adaptive Technology and Services for those with physical and learning challenges; the Annexes, which house off-site shelving; and Collection Maintenance, which makes sure each of Penn State’s 7.6 million volumes — spanning more than 30 miles of collections — is in its proper place. Under Snowman’s leadership over the past 13 years, a number of innovative changes have been put in place that have widened access, controlled costs and extended the Libraries’ reach far beyond the Penn State community.

In recognition of her accomplishments, both within Penn State and externally, Snowman recently was honored with the second-ever Distinguished Achievement in Access Services Award at the 2015 Access Services Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Conference organizer David McCaslin, a librarian at the California Institute of Technology, noted that Snowman is a leader in the access services field. “She has led big initiatives and has also shared her experiences at conference presentations and in published articles,” McCaslin said.

One such initiative was the Google Book Scanning Project, where Penn State Libraries' Collection Maintenance unit shipped half a million volumes from the Libraries’ collection to Google for digitization. All are now available for viewing online in the HathiTrust Digital Library, a digital repository partnership among international academic and research institutions.

Another area where Penn State has played a key role is in resource sharing — the borrowing and lending of books and articles among institutions. Last year, the University Libraries’ Interlibrary Loan filled 68,835 requests from other institutions for books and articles. “We have an outstanding reputation among our consortial partners. OCLC (the Online Computer Library Center), a nonprofit global library cooperative, recently listed Penn State as one of the top 10 lenders worldwide. The world depends on our collections,” Snowman said.

“OCLC (the Online Computer Library Center), a nonprofit global library cooperative, recently listed Penn State as one of the top 10 lenders worldwide. The world depends on our collections.”

—Ann Snowman,
head of Access Services, University Libraries

Within Penn State, new services developed under Snowman’s tenure have proven highly successful. “Office delivery for University Park faculty and staff, a very popular time-saving service that was first offered two years ago, averages 500-600 shipments each month and is increasing steadily,” she said.

In addition, measures such as the “Floating Collection” have reduced operating costs. “When a book travels from one campus to another at someone’s request, it will be reshelved at that campus once it is checked back in. This has reduced shipping costs and helps place collections near the faculty and students who are most interested in them. Penn State is the only academic library that does this,” she explained.

Despite the steady shift toward digital resources, the Libraries’ print collections continue to increase. Access Services manages offsite shelving facilities, called annexes, which hold 1.6 million items that are in less demand. Students can still find these items online in the Libraries’ catalog, and clicking the “I Want It” button that appears next to the catalog entry results in the same quick turnaround for those materials as it does for a book on the library shelf.

Serving the direct needs of students is a primary area of focus for Access Services, and in particular, its Course Reserves unit, which works closely with World Campus instructors and instructional designers to provide Penn State online students seamless access to their readings.

“When a book travels from one campus to another at someone’s request, it will be reshelved at that campus once it is checked back in. This has reduced shipping costs and helps place collections near the faculty and students who are most interested in them. Penn State is the only academic library that does this.”

— Ann Snowman

Last February Snowman was appointed to Provost Nick Jones’ Open Educational Resources Task Force, chaired by University Libraries Dean Barbara Dewey and charged to “develop approaches for systematically implementing open education resources to support Penn State teaching and learning and contribute to President Eric Barron’s agenda for student access and affordability.” As Snowman noted, “Access Services is a natural fit for this role, especially Course Reserves, as it already supports teaching and learning by providing access to digital content via ANGEL.

“We are often able to make some costly print textbooks available for checkout as well, saving students the expense of purchasing at least that one. The recent Giving Tuesday campaign focused on our textbook fund in an effort to enhance resources to extend our ability to do just that,” she added.

The Libraries' Adaptive Technology and Services unit, which provides personalized service to students with disabilities, also plays an integral role in providing access to materials. This includes reformatting course materials and providing special furniture, computer hardware and software for students who need accommodations.

Given Access Services' vast scope and reach, heading the department has been a formidable task, and Snowman said she was honored to be recognized for her work. “When your colleagues, the people who really know what it is you do and think you do it well, give you an award, it is a very humbling experience. They do many of the same things extremely well also. To be called out from among that collective and cited for outstanding achievement meant a great deal to me,” she said.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 26, 2016