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Understanding the Link between Distance Learning and Academic Libraries

Aug 17, 2007
Distance learning and academic libraries have a symbiotic relationship, and the steady support of library resources is vital in making any off-campus courses a success. Academic libraries have continuously supported various forms of teaching on campus, such as regular courses and distance learning in its traditional form as well as its new online avatar. Libraries need to aid the educational process in any higher education institution, and cater to a variety of publics, including students, administration staff, and faculty, regardless of the location. In this day and age, it is important that library personnel are up to date with the mediums of technology being employed for delivering online courses, so that they can provide undeterred assistance to their patrons.

How do Virtual Academic Libraries Work?

Most of the virtual libraries linked to universities offering distance learning programs work in a fashion similar to a physical library. Every student enrolled in any course with any particular college is given a Personal Identification Number, which the student needs to provide to the library manager along with the course details he/she is enrolled in for accessing library resources through email. Most of the colleges give students a unique username and password thereafter, which can be used to browse library catalogs and locate specific articles.

A lot of universities have mutual information sharing, wherein if certain information requested by a student is not available in the library resources of the college he is enrolled in, he can request it from a library resource of a partner college. The University of Houston for example, has a program called ILLiad (Interlibrary Loan internet accessible database) for requesting delivery of books and articles. Any student enrolled with the University of Houston can make a one time registery with this particular delivery format to receive books and articles in the future. Distance Learning and Academic Libraries supporting this form of education have changed the way a traditional library works.

Requirements for Virtual Library Personnel

Virtual library personnel need to have an indepth knowledge of changing technologies and especially of the mediums that a distance education course employs. Understanding the workings of distance learning and academic libraries' role in making it a success is hugely dependent on how the library personnel implement their knowledge. Library staff today are well versed with technology, and have been long time internet users. Moreover they are familiar with inter-library loans and document delivery and are masters at organizing information.

It is essential to realise that distance learning and academic libraries are partners, where the library staff can work together with the faculty to design online courses. Moreover, due to their prociency with computers, librarians can work as technology advisers for most of the faculty and students of a distance education course. And that is the shape of things to come.
About the Author
Jim Zorn is web master of the Guide to Distance Learning. Please visit to learn more about online colleges and universities, distance learning degrees, majors and courses offered.
http://www.guide-to-distance-learning.com/index.html
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