The Alvin Sherman Library, Research,
and Information Technology Center
Alvin Sherman Library, Research, and Information Technology Center in Davie,
Florida, is a joint-use research center created by the Broward County
Board of County Commissioners and Nova Southeastern University
(NSU) located on the NSU campus. The library provides services to both academic
and public patrons. Broward County funded half of the construction costs and
provides ongoing partial support for operational expenses, while the university
staffs and manages the facility. It opened in December, 2001.
I visited the Reference Department and spoke with Nora Quinlan, Head
of Reference and Access Services. I learned much about the library from Nora,
through our meeting, correspondence, and from a paper she co-authored, "Staffing
Challenges for a Joint-Use Library: The Nova Southeastern University and Broward
County Experience." (2001) The Reference Department website was
also a useful source of information.
Nora was kind enough to give
me permission to take photographs of the library's reference area. I
timed my pictures to exclude patrons, as she requested; the few faces
in the images are smudged out. As a result, these pictures do not give a true
picture of its usual hustle and bustle. The reference area has always been
busy during my visits over the past two years.
The reference area is located at the rear of the second floor of the
library. Upon entering the library, a patron walks into an open skylighted
atrium extending through the building's five floors. The back right side
of the atrium has a curved staircase leading up to the reference section.
Access is also available via a bank of elevators located at the rear of the
left side of the atrium. The picture above is taken from across the atrium,
at the front of the library's second floor stacks. (full
view) The east facing windows admit
lots of natural light, making for a very pleasant and open environment.
The physical space is divided into clear functional
areas. The main areas illustrated above
- Stacks are divided in two sections, with eleven sets of shelves on each
side. This is a little bit inconvenient for a user who may not know which
side of the library contains the LC code being searched for.
- The reference desk is in the center of the space, towards the front.
Ample room is provided in front of it for queued patrons. The
desk itself runs from the pillar holding the information guides across
to the similar pillar to the north (left).
- Many information guides are available on a rack between the stairs
and the reference desk. Additional handouts are available from the reference
desk and a smaller rack behind the desk
- Study tables are arranged in two groups on either side of the reference
- 40 computers are available at the back of the reference space. They
are arranged on curved desks that offset each slightly from its neighbor,
providing the illusion of privacy.
- An atlas shelf stores and provides access to oversized atlases.
Other areas of note are not obvious from the photograph:
- Two high speed laser printers are located adjacent to the back pillars,
close to the computer users.
- A cash card machine, used to charge the card necessary for printing,
is located next to one of the printers. When the library first opened,
printing was free. When they added the payment requirement, patrons
had to go to the other side of the library to get or add money to a card
to pay for printing. Now the payment kiosk is more conveniently located.
- A work table is located next to one of the printers. A wide variety
of free office supplies and equipment is available, including a paper
punch, a pencil sharpener, a paper cutter, a pair of scissors, white out,
rubber bands, paper clips, and scrap paper.
- At the front of the reference area (inside the white boxy structure between
the stairs) is a comfortable bench, although I have never
seen anyone use it in two years of visiting the library.
- A specialized collection of information about scholarships and grants
is located around the northern corner out of sight.
- A small shelf behind the reference desk has several volumes of subject
heading descriptions for patrons' use.
- A dictionary is available on a stand just north of the reference desk.
The reference desk itself is designed to be accessible and accommodate the
patron. There are four possible work stations, although only two are currently
equipped and manned. One workstation is equipped with dual monitors, one
for the librarian and one for the patron. The librarian can work comfortably
at her desk and describe what she is doing to the patron following along
on the second monitor. The second work area has only a single monitor.
was clear; shelves, sources, and functional areas were labeled well. Directional
signs were provided for people coming off the elevator or up the stairs.
A large sign saying “REFERENCE” hangs over the desk
and is visible from the entire second floor. A guide to the Library of Congress
Classification was set up on an easel where patrons entering the reference
section from the stairs would see it.
perspective: The John E. Seabrook Library c. 1865
A one room library, circa Civil War.
Credit: Civil War Treasures from the
New-York Historical Society
Patrons and services
As a joint use facility, the library serves both public and academic patrons.
Public use is enhanced by a youth center, best-seller lending area, and multimedia
(CD and DVD) collection, all located on the first floor. The public has somewhat
restricted access to databases; many require the the public patron be on-campus,
and a few databases are restricted to academic patrons.
The staff, faculty, and students of NSU have access to all the facilities of
The population served by this library is quite heterogeneous. Broward County is a densely populated urban and suburban area with a diverse
population. (U.S. Census, 2004)
- 1,731,000 population
- 70% white, 20% black or African-American, 10% mixed or other. The census
reported 16% Hispanic heritage and 3% Asian heritage. 25% were foreign born
and 28% speak a language other than English at home.
- 16% over 65 years of age; 23% under 18.
- 249,923 students in Broward County School District schools
- The Broward County Library system has 36 libraries with over 2,500,000
items in its collection
Nova Southeastern University serves a mix of undergraduate and graduate students:
- Largest independent university in SE United States, with over 19,000 students
- 15,000 students in graduate or professional programs, 4,000 undergraduate
- Professional schools include Education and Human Services, Computer and
Information Sciences, Business, Law, Osteopathic Medicine, Pharmacy, Optometry,
- Extensive distance learning components in all schools
Service in the Reference Department reflects the mix of client
base. Of the total 4,417 questions handled by the reference desk in August,
2004, 2,557 were from academic patrons and 1,860 came from the public. This
is roughly a 60/40 split in favor of academic users. 512 (around 12%) of these
questions came in on the phone. Individual questions are not tracked, so the
library cannot say what percentage deals with one topic or another. The type of
question is tracked, however. During the month of August, 2004, the largest
categories were reference (34%) and "general
or directional" (33%). The last third of reference questions were split
"research or instructional" (17%) and "technology or equipment" (15%).
These are typical of the distribution of question type over longer
periods of time as well. (N. Quinlan, personal communication, September 10,
Department website lists the variety of services performed by its employees:
- Reference assistance
- Materials selection
- Special projects
Other general library services are also available through the Reference Department:
- Database access
- Interlibrary loan (between NSU and Broward locations)
- Use of computer labs and group study rooms
Quinlan’s paper describes the typically different reference goals of
the public library and academic library. The academic librarian strives to
instruct the patron on how to find the answer; the public librarian often simply
tries to provide the answer. One of the staffing challenges was finding staff
that enjoyed and had skills in both types of reference service.
As a patron of this library for two years, I've never found the staff
anything less than very courteous and helpful, with open and inviting attitudes.
The department is busy, and often staffed with two librarians. This
allows them time to answer questions thoroughly. I've
never experienced "negative closure" at this reference desk. They
often take patrons to the stacks to assist in locating material,
or to computers or printers to help with technology and equipment
issues. While my information needs are a little bit unusual, as there is no
LIS program at NSU, the professional staff has always been able to guide
and assist me. I wish they had little "Rate our librarian" cards
like they do in the public libraries, because I have often wanted to give
them recognition for the help I have received.
Historical perspective: 1950 Reading Room
Credit: University of Sydney Library
reference department offers a large collection of information guides to a variety
of topics. Almost all are single sheets with double sided printing, and two
are stapled two-pagers. Each is printed on
its own unique color of paper.
Guides are available in several locations. As one entered the reference
area from the staircase, a display containing most of them is quite accessible.
A second display case containing all the database descriptions is located
behind the reference desk, between the desk and the computer area. A third
set of literature is arranged on the counter of the reference desk
The guide illustrated to the right is an eight page staple bound 4" x
printed on card stock. It has four sections. "Discover" is a two
page layout describing floor by floor locations of library offerings. "Connect" is
a two page layout providing overviews of the catalog, the periodical collection,
audiovisual materials, and databases. "Learn" is a two page layout
describing how the collection is arranged (LC), a grants and foundation collection,
the opportunities for library instruction, and the document delivery and
ILL services. "Interact" describes policies regarding SEFLIN, printing,
copying, borrowing, renewals, overdues, loans, holds, reserve, the cafe,
and the "Circle of Friends" library support group. Service hours,
parking information, and contact information are on the back cover.
are generally titled “DatabaseName Help Sheet” or simply “DatabaseName”; the
titling is somewhat inconsistent. Each opens with a description of the database.
Additional content is very specific to the database or service being described.
Common elements include an explanation of basic search, a result screen,
advanced search capabilities, and special functions like emails references,
saving searches, or printing results. Databases for which guides are available
- Infotrack Databases Help Sheet
- MLS International Biography
- Project Muse
- Wilson Web
- NovaCat Help Sheet (NSU catalog)
- Proquest Databases Help Sheet
- Cambridge Scientific Abstracts
- LexisNexis Academic Help Sheet
- Child Abuse, Child Welfare, and Adoption CD Database 1965 – 2002
- Medical Research Using Ovid Web (NSU Only) ( 2 pages)
- Quick Guide FC Search ( Foundation Center – grant database)
These information guides instruct patrons how to use library facilities
- Using Pay-For-Print
- Databases for public users. Lists 136 databases and describes whether
they are available walk-in only, remote & walk-in, restricted, or public
- Library card application
These are guides to research resources for various topics. They don’t
follow a common format.
- Researching Small Business Topics This was really well
done. It includes the following sections: Resources on the Web (domain
names and brief descriptions of 9 online sources), Databases (five database
names), Journals, Newspapers and Magazines (5 national and 6 local), Selected
Reference Books (five titles and their call numbers), Browsing the Collection
(ranges of call numbers of interest), and Selected Library of Congress
Subject Headings (fifteen LCSH applicable to small business with instructions
to use them in NovaCat.) Instructions could have been a little clearer
(i.e. a simple statement like “Use
these headings in the “Subject” field
of the NovaCat search form” is missing.)
- Business Information: 6 databases, 13 LC call numbers, 34 LCSH in NovaCat,
20 print resources and call numbers
- Genealogy Web Sites: 16 sites
- Canadian History Help Sheet (again, databases, call numbers, subject
headings, and print resources)
- British History Help Sheet (ditto)
- In Remembrance: September 11, 2001: Selected Print
Resources. 15 titles,
call numbers, and shelf location by floor.
- In Remembrance: September 11, 2001: Internet Resources: 11 sites
- Theater/Drama/Film: databases, call numbers, print resources, websites,
and subject headings
- Resources for Journalism (Style guide call numbers and locations, databases,
print sources, and websites.) This has a section called “Electronic
Resources Basics” describing the “Electronic Resources” page
on the library website that has links to:
This information would be useful for many different searchers.
It is not clear why only the journalists get this help, although
it does take up quite a bit of room on the sheet of paper. Other
guides are already full. The library might want to produce this
as a general resource, not one specifically tied to journalism.
- Full text journal title search
- Quick e-reference sources
- Other library catalogs
- Literature Resource Center (3 pages) Literature guides, biographies,
- Biographical Resources: databases, LC call numbers, Dewey call numbers
(the only sheet to have these!), print resources, and selected websites
- Strategies for Locating Useful Dissertations in Education
- How to Locate Empirical/Quantitative Research in
explains keywords and techniques for three different databases
- Stock Market Help Sheet for Public Users This made me wonder
if academic patrons had access to additional financial resources not available
to public patrons.
The front desk offers another selection of information for patrons:
- Directory / Floor Plan maps (shows restrooms, copiers, teen room, circulation
desk, reference desk, periodicals, classrooms, microforms room, archives,
theatre, laboratories, public library department, study rooms, elevators,
- Campus map
- Call number map (shows floor and shelf locations for ranges of call numbers)
- Ask a Librarian flier about online reference at www.askalibrarian.org
- Read award winning literature with us: Join
Books Over Biscotti (readers group, readers advisory)
- Individual Library Instruction. Allows both NSU and public patrons to
receive an hour of individualized instruction in how to use library resources.
It specifically says that librarians cannot do the client’s research
or school assignment.
- How to Read a Library of Congress Call Number gives an overview of LC
classification and explains the shelf ordering of the call numbers. Clearly
this is to help people find desired items.
- Instructions on Printing and Copying and cash card operation
- Group Study Room Guide: rules for using group study rooms
- Assorted fliers for NSU graduate schools and off campus housing
Historical perspective: The Lexington Library Company, 1821
A catalogue of the books, belonging to the Lexington Library Company; to
which is prefixed, a concise narrative of the origin and progress of the
institution; with its charter, laws, & regulations. (full
Credit: The First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820,
Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
The reference collection
The collection of around 13,700 volumes is ordered by Library of Congress
Classification. It is strong in Florida, tropical, and Caribbean topics. In
many different sections, one would see titles with those words. It is also
strong in addressing the information needs of the ethnic diversity of the South
Florida population. Many encyclopedias and other reference works provide information
about different ethnicities. There were large collections in literature and
the sciences, although I’m
not familiar enough with the reference literature of the fields to say they
Biology, anatomy, and other resources relating to medicine seemed well represented.
As befits a new library, most of the collection consists of new books; one
feels like a pioneer in opening some of these pristine volumes that may have
rarely been opened before.
The reference collection seemed weak in a few ways. There were very few sources
in any language other than English; a few Spanish titles were present, but
not many. Many series did not seem complete, especially in the business collection.
did not seem very well represented, not surprising since there is no engineering
school at Nova. The law section was weak; there is a separate legal library
on campus so much of the law reference material is not located in this section.
The computer science reference section was not strong, but the collection
in the stacks is excellent.
I found interesting titles that surprised me.
Two large volumes provided information about tattoos. There was an encyclopedia
on vampires. There was an abundance of gardening books, cook books, and other
items I did not expect. The last book on the last shelf was ZA 5075 .G68, “The
United States Government Internet Manual 2003-2004” edited
by Peggy Garvin, a 768 page finding aid describing online government resources.
It included flow charts of many government organizations and departments, with
URLs in each chart box. Very nice information representation!
The stacks seem less than 50% full. The top and bottom shelf
of each five shelf unit is empty, and few of the middle shelves are totally
filled. There is ample room for expansion of the collection within the existing
Historical perspective: Harvard (undated)
Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University
Museum Library, stacks, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Excellent research department, excellent library, excellent
staff! The residents of Broward County are fortunate that their Library Director,
Samual Morrison, and Donald Riggs, Vice President for Information Services
and University Library at NSU, had the vision to create this joint-use center.
It makes the resources of an excellent research library available to all residents
of Broward County. The Reference Department provides all its patrons, both
academic and public, with excellent resources and services.
MacDougall, H. & Quinlan, N. (2001). Staffing challenges for a joint-use
library: the Nova Southeastern University and Broward County experience. Resource
Sharing & Information Networks, 15(1/2), 131-150.
Nova Southeastern University. (2004) Services: about the reference department.
Retrieved September 10, 2004 from http://www.nova.edu/library/serv/reference/index.html
United States Census Bureau. (2004). Florida quick facts. Retrieved September
10, 2004, from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12/12011.html