Small campus library bolstered by the cloud

Student citations have improved since Covenant moved to a cloud-based library system.

Sitting on top of Lookout Mountain, Covenant College sometimes is lost in the clouds. Now, the private Dade County, Ga., school’s Kresge Memorial Library will be in the clouds every day, thanks to an Ohio-based organization that brings together schools to share library resources while keeping down rising costs.

Covenant College is one of only a handful of institutions around the world to launch a cloud-based library system to streamline administrative functions and provide access to books and media in libraries worldwide—expanding student research well beyond the confines of the small Christian liberal arts campus, said Tad Mindeman, Covenant’s director of library services.

“It’s unlike anything that has been done before,” he said.

In technological terms, the “cloud” refers to the storage of users’ data and software on remote servers that can be accessed through any internet connection.

Colleges increasingly have used cloud-based programs to save on hardware and maintenance costs, and by subscribing to the Online Computer Library Center’s new cloud-based integrated operating system, the school could save $50,000 over the next few years.

For students and faculty at Covenant, doing a search on the library’s system is like using Google, only in this case they can see all of the books and electronic resources available in different libraries around the world, Mindeman said.

Using OCLC’s vast library of digitized books, articles, and other publications doesn’t come with the legal concerns common with other efforts to move library resources to the web.

Vendors who own the rights to books stored in the OCLC system have reached legal agreements with the organization, meaning the project won’t face the legal hurdles seen in Google’s bid to create a vast digital library.

Covenant College was among about three dozen libraries to test OCLC’s new cloud-based integrated operating system—called WorldShare—in February 2011.

Mindeman said Covenant paid the $20,000 fee for migrating digital books into the cloud because it would save the library money, bring more resources to students, and remove the IT burden of fixing and updating library software and hardware.

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