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The Engineering Library: A Special Resource

During a hectic day of classes

Above: Large tables provide needed space for group study.
Photo By:
Ben Stangl

there is always one place on campus to escape to for focused study: the library. For engineering students and faculty on the UNL City Campus, the location of choice for individual or group study with a wealth of resources on hand is the Engineering Library located on the second and third floors of Nebraska Hall.

The original Engineering Library was functional in the 1940s, and then the collection was moved to Love Library, where it remained for about 30 years. The Board of Regents minutes from the University Archives at Love Library tells the story.

“In the fall of 1969 it was determined that an Engineering Library in Nebraska Hall would be convenient and beneficial to the Engineering College and the University Libraries. This undergraduate library was planned as an extension of Love Library.

The Engineering Library opened in 1971 as phase I of WSEC was completed. The Nebraska Hall Library, located on the 2nd and 3rd floors of Nebraska Hall, provided a collection of about 60,000 books, a “close” reserve book services, and seating for about 1,000 students. This central library complex continues to provide library services to engineering students, staff, faculty and community users.”

Above: Additional books can be found on the third floor.
Photo By:
Ben Stangl

Science librarian Dick Voeltz added, “The initial Engineering Library collection came primarily from Love Library and the science and math branches and probably some materials retained from the Undergraduate Library collection. Prior to that, the Engineering Library started out as a reading room in SEC, primarily as a collection of departmental periodicals obtained from the various engineering departments.”

Recently, the Engineering Library underwent more changes. The library was reinvisioned as a gathering place for students to study and use the electronic resources. A thorough deselection process was begun in 2009 so the circulating collection could be consolidated upstairs and the main floor of the library transformed into more useful space for engineering students and faculty. Up to 10 shelves were added after it was determined the structure could handle the additional loads. Study tables were relocated to the main level.

Above: Medium size tables provide needed space for smaller groups.
Photo By:
Ben Stangl

On the main level the reference collection and the shelving for the standards and patent collections were reconfigured into three separate areas. Two microform reader/printers were situated for viewing and printing from microfilm and microfiche, which is stored on the second level.

The deselection and reconfiguration process revealed a large portion of functional space on the main level. Now, just beyond the circulation desk is a well-organized study haven. Large tables are available for groups and carrels are situated for individual study. In the reference section book shelves are strategically intermingled with seating areas. Each shelving section is labeled according to the specific engineering discipline represented.

There is comfortable seating available with popular technical publications for an optional read and even a chess board for a welcome distraction from a study session. Two self-service photocopying machines are available; both are coin and card fundable. In addition, two laptops are available and may be checked out at the circulation desk.

Two study rooms are available on a first-come basis or they may be reserved at the circulation desk. One room regularly hosts tutoring in electrical engineering and the other is fully equipped for patent search assistance, even boasting a new projector for group presentations or dry runs. Dryerase boards may be found in each, as well as near the back of the main level.

As the library continues to update its services, Circulation Supervisor Brian Keiser is hard at work to keep students informed. He works with the Engineering Communications office and informs them of updates to the library to post on Facebook and Twitter. A typical update might include notifications of new books available, holiday operating hours or even upcoming presentations hosted within the library. Keiser has also prepared a Citations Manager presentation for engineering students and faculty who want to learn more about this resource. Operations Manager Donna Koch is working with members of the College of Engineering Advisory Board to bring engineering professionals into the library to give presentations about engineering careers.

The Engineering Library has functioned as a Patent and Trademark Depository Library since 1976. Two computers are available for patent and trademark research and for downloading and printing patents available online. One of these is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office-provided CD-ROM/ DVD CASSIS 2 Workstation for multi-point access to patent information, related statistics, and speedy printing of patents from DVDs. The other is a PC for access to patent and trademark information on the USPTO Web site and elsewhere.

Librarian Virginia Baldwin, besides possessing a wide range of technical expertise, trains every year with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to stay current and continue to perform advanced patent searches. Available by appointment, she is very willing to assist students and faculty in using the facility’s search tools. She is also easily accessible through instant messaging by Meebo chat at vbaldwinunl. Baldwin has been with the university for 10 years and serves in many capacities. As the Engineering Librarian, she is enthusiastic to let students know, “if they need help, ask for it!”

Baldwin offered a few tips for jumpstarting any library research. Library guides are available online for all the engineering disciplines, including physics and construction management. The URLs may be found at php?uid=28748. Note the Meebo chat widget on this page and on each guide as well. Other helpful links may be found that address Citation Manager, interlibrary loans or articles available for download. In searching for articles it is recommended to use indexes such as Compendex, Inspec and IEEE Xplore as opposed to Google Scholar.

When asked what students can do to optimize their experience at the library, not only for themselves but for those around them, Baldwin was full of suggestions. Students are encouraged to use locations designed for them. This could be a large table that facilitates a group of eight students who are working together or to spread out large projects. Individual study carrels and soft seating are spread throughout the library. However, should the need arise for a more custom arrangement, students can rearrange furniture, tables and mobile white boards at their convenience. Baldwin also encourages interaction with Engineering Library staff for instruction and guidance in using the virtual library.

Even the traditional “shhhh!” is waived when study groups gather. The library is geared toward accommodating undergraduates even if that means permitting food and drink. It is only asked that any trash be discarded and common courtesy be maintained, even with the flexible noise levels.

The library–a place to research, study or relax–is understandably frequented more during midterms or near the end of the semester when projects are due. On a day-to-day basis, the peak visiting hours are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then increase again around 5 p.m. Undergraduates, graduates, and faculty are all encouraged to use the suggestion box to contribute their ideas as they continue to enjoy the excellent services of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Engineering Library.