[Asis-l] UNC News Release: LifeTime Library thought to be the first nationwide

Monroe, Wanda G. wmonroe at email.unc.edu
Thu Sep 15 12:32:37 EDT 2011

For immediate use: Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011

LifeTime Library thought to be the first nationwide

CHAPEL HILL - How often have you wondered, "What did I do with that report I presented when I was in college? Did I save it on my laptop, on a CD, to my cell phone, or is it on a computer I no longer have?"

Or, after graduating, have you sadly remembered that you saved a special photo in your folder on the university's server only to realize it was now gone forever? 

Now imagine keeping those items all together and staying permanently connected to your university with the gift of digital storage throughout your lifetime. This fall, that gift was presented to new students in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The students are the first at UNC to use a new, web-based LifeTime Library, the brainchild of Gary Marchionini, Ph.D., dean and Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor at the school. He believes the service will be the first of its kind at any university.

Since he arrived in Chapel Hill in 1998, Marchionini has pondered ways to allow students to keep their digital files where they can access them whenever they need them for as long as they need them, before and after graduation.

"The vision is for students to be provided with storage facilities that would persist after they graduate," Marchionini said. "This would include public space as well as private space to keep files, photographs, health records and legal downloads of music - all in one place."

Anything the library user wanted to make private would be password-protected, as long as it falls within the University's terms-of-service agreement for use of computing resources. Even so, users can search the Internet for medical information filtered by their private health information. Graduates could access their projects and class work for job interviews and career projects.

Most universities, including Carolina, delete students' computer files after they graduate to free server space for new students. And saving college work and memories in notebooks and scrapbooks are past practices, said Arcot Rajasekar, Ph.D., a school professor and member of the DICE (Data Intensive Cyber Environment) supercomputing group, which helped develop the LifeTime Library: "Paper is all gone." 

Students take notes, write papers, do research, store photos and keep up with Facebook friends all on laptop computers. Sure, those items are stored on their laptops, but computers and applications become outdated and inaccessible; hard drives can crash.

Permanent storage with a trusted entity - the University - is the perfect solution, Marchionini said. He doesn't intend for the LifeTime Library to compete with products of companies that charge for such storage, but to provide a model that is economically viable for a public university. 

So far, the school has provided storage for the LifeTime Library, but Marchionini's vision is for the project to be offered to all Carolina students. Business partners may be recruited to help with costs so that the LifeTime Library could continue to be free to students and alumni.

The library connects users with UNC by allowing them to participate virtually in some events at the University. These connections, created by individual users, are personal and linked to their interests, all stored with easy access in a single place.

Two years in the making, the LifeTime Library has benefitted from research projects funded by the National Science Foundation and other prestigious sources. Last year a group of students tested it in a pilot project. Some were impressed by the library's easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface.

"We've been designing it to be as user-friendly as possible," said Mike Conway, a master's degree candidate in the school who helped create the library as part of his work for RENCI - the Renaissance Computing Institute, a collaboration by seven North Carolina universities including UNC. For new users, "there won't be much of a learning curve."

Users can fine-tune their libraries, setting up policies and new capabilities, and therefore Marchionini expects the libraries to provide new learning experiences for the school's students. Eventually, researchers would like to see it synchronize with multiple devices.

The LifeTime Library supports the Innovate at Carolina Roadmap, UNC's plan to help Carolina become a world leader in launching university-born ideas for the good of society.

Daniel Beaver-Seitz, another master's degree candidate in the school who helped design the LifeTime Library, is using it himself.

"This is where my intellectual life lives," he said. "When I graduate and move on, I want to take UNC with me."

For photos and more information, see the SILS Release: http://sils.unc.edu/news/2011/SILS-lifetime-library

Wanda Monroe
Director of Communications
School of Information and Library Science University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
100 Manning Hall, CB 3360
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-3360
Phone: 919-843-8337
Web: sils.unc.edu
Follow us on Twitter at: UNC SILS

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