Increasing Accessibility to University Students Through the Digitization of Libraries

University libraries are treasure troves of knowledge that many students will utilize during their academic careers. Making them as accessible as possible only serves to benefit those enrolled at the school. Digitizing study and research materials provide libraries the ability to increase student accessibility. This can revolutionize the way students can still obtain the same materials as others even if they experience an obstacle that prevents them from physically obtaining materials from the libraries on campus.

By creating and providing access to digital copies of textbooks, research materials, and primary sources, libraries can offer university students more ways to access and interact with research materials. There are many different styles of learning, and digital library materials accommodate all types of learners. An example of how digital research material can increase accessibility is by aiding students who find that taking notes on the computer is how they best study and retain information. Online resources in a PDF format allow those in higher education to annotate the document they are studying. Digitized study and research materials can be copied and pasted into Word or Google Docs to provide students with specific information that can be used in their notes. Taking screenshots and creating streamlined or detailed text notes will only benefit the student’s learning potential.

A practical and often overlooked benefit of digital artifacts is that the students will not have to worry about damaging the materials they are using. Many university libraries have special collections or contain a rare book room. These collections often have limited viewing times, require appointments, or only certain materials can be accessed. When these materials are digitized, the entire student body can use them without the risk of damaging or introducing elements of deterioration such as mishandling or wearing lotion when touching a manuscript. Outside the scope of rare books, not all students keep clean dorms or apartments. The risk of damage from leaking fridges, spilled liquids, or food mess on books is eliminated when using digitized materials.

Another benefit of digitizing university library collections is relieving some financial burdens that students may have. Textbooks for college are notoriously expensive, and not all students can afford to purchase a textbook that costs several hundreds of dollars. Buying a textbook may be impossible for students with financial insecurity or attending school on a scholarship. Digital textbooks or digital books help relieve the stress about not being able to have the materials they need for success.

Digitizing study and research materials provides access when physically attending classes is not an option. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many universities to close campuses, and students transitioned to online distance learning situations. With campuses closed or students remanded to quarantine in dormitories, campus libraries became inaccessible. The pandemic was not nor will it be the only time universities may face situations in which the libraries must close for the health and safety of students and staff. Digitization dissolves the barriers between being at a location physically and having the ability to access necessary materials.

Digitizing university library materials prevents limitations due to inclement weather or natural disasters. Some universities are in areas of the country that are known to have tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. If weather prevents students from safely getting to and from the university the students still need to have access to the libraries on campus, which is what digitizing can allow. Any collecting institution is aware of risks due to natural disasters or storms and tries to be prepared in such situations. If, unfortunately, the facility has suffered damage, the potential loss of materials can be devastating. While digitizing does not replace a physical copy of something, it can allow for lost materials to still be used by students. Digitization can serve as a security feature for all university libraries. By providing access to both physical and digital libraries, university libraries are able to bridge the gaps created by various circumstances. This means students will be able to further their studies and utilize materials in a way that works best for them.

University libraries can digitize their research and study materials in a timely fashion while staying within budget by using e-ImageData’s ScanPro series 500 microfilm scanners. Microforms and other documents can all be scanned and digitized with the use of one scanner. Without the challenges of using multiple kinds of scanners, digital libraries can expand in a more significant and efficient way than they have in the past.

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