Stephen Bergmeier, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at OHIO, researches the design and synthesis of new therapeutics for cancer and infectious diseases and regularly uses the Science Citation Index Expanded database for his research.

Photographer: Tyler Stabile/Ohio University Libraries


From left, Hannah Brenneman, a sophomore in nursing; Kylene Williams, a junior in nursing; and Rachel Stevens, a sophomore in nursing; work in Alden Library on Dec. 2.

Photographer: Tyler Stabile/Ohio University Libraries

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University Libraries fans the flames of knowledge

Ohio University Libraries took approximately 200 years to collect three million volumes. The acquisition of its first million electronic volumes, however, was an entirely different story — that endeavor took just a few years.

Which is to say: Times are changing quickly, and the Libraries is at the cusp of those changes. In a world where the ubiquity of digital information can be overwhelming, the OHIO community relies on the Libraries to select, organize and navigate information more than ever. The Libraries’ acquisition and management of digital resources presents incredible opportunities for advancements in scholarship, research and citizenship — opportunities that OHIO students and faculty have been utilizing in big ways.
With information migrating from books to bits, the physical space constraints of a library are increasingly obsolete. This allows for an expansion in collections of complete, unaltered digitized primary sources.

Renee Benham, a doctoral student in literature, spent a semester working alongside six classmates in Dr. Nicole Reynolds’ course “Romancing Romantic Books” to document influential 18th century writers who were excluded from mainstream history on account of their race, class or gender. The Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), billed as the most ambitious scholarly digitization project ever undertaken, enabled them to do just that. The database consists of over 32 million pages of text-searchable primary sources in 205,639 volumes from the times of the American, French and Industrial Revolutions.

“[The people who determined the 18th and 19th centuries’ literary canons] left out many authors who, in their own time, were tremendously important,” Benham said. “Scholars are using these sources — found in ECCO — to do recovery work and restore these authors to their proper place.”

Janet Hulm, assistant dean for collections and access, oversees the departments responsible for the purchase of ECCO and nearly 90,000 other electronic resources. Accessibility and diversity of resources is key.

As such, those who negotiate the Libraries’ contracts with outside vendors work to ensure that once a resource is acquired, it is electronically accessible to current students, faculty and staff from anywhere in the world.

Kevin Haworth, author and OHIO assistant professor of English, noted that instant access to the Libraries’ resources can be paramount to creativity and innovation.

“Being able to access the Library remotely allows for a really organic, flexible creative process,” he said. “I get to just follow my curiosity in a way that I would not be able to otherwise.”

Haworth regularly connected to the Libraries from San Francisco and Tel Aviv while writing his books, and took comfort in knowing he was always just a login away from reliable information when inspiration struck.

The Libraries also strives to support the full academic spectrum — currently, its electronic databases span from sports training videos to cutting-edge chemical engineering procedures.

In no uncertain terms, access to quality information is an investment. OHIO Libraries’ contribution toward a statewide subscription for a high-impact medical or science database can approach six figures per year.

“The science, technical and medical databases can be very expensive,” Hulm said. “But they are absolutely critical.”

OHIO science faculty would agree. The databases are springboards for progress, and access to resources like Scifinder and ISI Web of Knowledge is routine in the life of an academic scientist.

Stephen C. Bergmeier, professor and chair of OHIO’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, reported regularly using Science Citation Index Expanded — a massive index of scientific journal literature and conference proceedings that is part of the ISI Web of Knowledge database — to search for new studies relevant to his grant writing. Bergmeier heads a medicinal chemistry research group at OHIO that strives to advance the design and synthesis of new therapeutics for cancer and infectious diseases.

“The research that we do has the potential to help provide new drugs to address serious human health issues,” Bergmeier said. To date, he has co-invented nine patents.

In addition to supporting student and faculty research, the Libraries has served the larger public as a Federal Depository for the Sixth Congressional District since 1886. Recently, the Libraries purchased over 500,000 electronic volumes and official government documents.

It is an acquisition that not only tripled the size of the Government Document collection, but increased its practicality and accessibility as well. The digitized materials are now discoverable by keywords and even text within the documents themselves.

“The United States federal government is the single largest publisher in the world,” said Scott Seaman, dean of University Libraries. “Because it’s such a broad range of topics and because so often the government documents are linked to policy decisions, it’s crucial to have that content available to the public.”

Access to existing information and research is crucial to the creation of new knowledge, and the Libraries plays an essential role in accessing that existing information and research.

Each book, electronic journal and database comprises a solid foundation for future teaching, learning and research. Whatever information you seek, wherever you are, Ohio University Libraries can help you find it.

Ohio University Communications and Marketing is providing this Compass series in partnership with University Libraries in honor of the Libraries’ 200th anniversary.