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Wolpert Discusses Library System With Undergraduate Association

By Shankar Mukherji


Ann J. Wolpert, MIT’s Director of Libraries, gave a comprehensive report regarding the status of the Institute’s library system at the Undergraduate Association Council meeting last night.

Wolpert is currently serving her fifth year as the head administrator of the university’s libraries.

In her presentation, Wolpert outlined the need to balance the desires of the student body against the reality of MIT’s tight space situation.

“We must work within profoundly constrained facilities and ... with projects such as the Stata Center, the construction pipeline is full,” said Wolpert.

Still, according to Wolpert, efforts are underway to respond to students’ needs.

Wolpert highlighted the results of a survey distributed to the student body.

Wolpert said that “students asked for longer [library operating] hours, comfortable and varied study space, more online full-text resources, and more books,” among other things.

“The survey showed that MIT students are fairly sophisticated consumers of library services,” Wolpert said.

As a short-term response to the student body’s expressed needs, Wolpert said that the library system plans “to install a 24-hour study space in Building 14 by the 2002 academic year.”

The libraries are also looking into initiating a new series of distantly delivered services. “We’re one of two or three libraries in the country exploring such services,” Wolpert said.

Furthermore, Wolpert brought up the idea to introduce compact shelving to the basement of Building 14. The proposal, however, has several serious potential drawbacks.

“The building was designed to float,” Wolpert said, “and if we put too much weight [in the basement] it might sink.”

Despite such constraints, Wolpert said that she still has a number of “long term dreams” for the library system. Foremost among these is an idea to build an “art-defining science and engineering library.”

When asked by UA President Peter A. Shulman ’01 about what the proposed new library would entail, Wolpert said she envisioned a building structured around “services, spaces, and resources ... and in which the resources are integrated in a valuable way.”

“We clearly need some tools that will facilitate access to the rich resources we supply,” Wolpert said.

The MIT Libraries contain more than 2.6 million volumes, more than 20,000 current subscriptions, and extensive collections of microforms, maps, slides, scores, sound recordings, motion pictures, and videotapes. The system is based on the five main libraries of engineering, architecture, science, humanities and management, and several branch libraries in specialized areas, such as aeronautics and astronautics, geology and planetary sciences, and music.