For many people, libraries conjure up images of hushed voices, using the Dewey Decimal System to search the card catalog, and perusing the shelves for a favorite author.
But times have changed. Internet searches have made card catalogues nearly obsolete. The Library of Congress, the country’s national library, hasn’t added new cards to its catalogues since 1980.
As is true in so many aspects of our daily lives, technology is changing the way we find and use information. That’s why Deanna West, who assumed the role of director of the NCI Frederick Scientific Library in September, is rethinking how the library serves its patrons.
“Libraries have evolved a lot,” she said. “They are no longer simply places that house books. They are changing from quiet spaces to collaborative environments that provide access to information, tools, ideas, and innovation.”
She isn’t suggesting that libraries try to compete with busy internet cafes and coffee shops, but she is working on efforts to transition the Scientific Library in Building 549 into a place where people can interact with colleagues and the library staff—while still offering quiet spaces where people can read and concentrate free of distractions.
Enhancing Existing Services
Following the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” West and her staff of eight continue to provide the NCI Frederick community with the services it has come to rely upon, including literature searches, assistance with author identifiers, and acquisition of books and articles from outside the Scientific Library’s own collection.
“We know that our document delivery and interlibrary loan programs, as well as the laptop librarian and Daily Science News services, are popular and valuable to the NCI Frederick community,” she said.
But she believes the library can become an even greater asset by creating its own information archive. She and her team are reconfiguring some of the library’s existing space and have installed compact movable shelving to accommodate decades of materials generated by NCI Frederick scientists and researchers.
A Comfortable Fit
With a master’s degree in information science, West has spent her entire professional career in and around libraries. She came to NCI Frederick from the MITRE Corporation, where she led their information services department in support of the Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) they operate.
“That experience made moving here much easier,” she said, since FNL is also an FFRDC. She added that her transition has also been aided by the longevity of the Scientific Library staff, who have provided institutional knowledge and stability amid the challenges of COVID-19. “I have talked to people who have said being able to get the information they needed [during the pandemic shutdown] had such an impact.”
The Scientific Library reopened in May 2022 and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also offers satellite services on the second floor of the ATRF on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The staff is available to assist those who wish to gather information remotely as well.
As she continues to settle into her new role, West says that the only place that feels more like home than a library is Frederick.
“I spent a lot of time here when I was growing up,” she said. “My grandfather played the chimes at Trinity Chapel [on West Church Street in downtown Frederick]. I would go up in the steeple with him on Saturday afternoons and watch him play. So Frederick is a huge part of my life. I got my bachelor’s degree at Hood College and now, to come back around at this point in my career, it’s like coming home.”