PROFILE: Librarian Looks Back On 25 Years At Langsam

Librarian Randy Roberts started working for University Libraries shortly before the New Central Library – now named the Walter C. Langsam Library – opened for service in 1978. The Louisville, Ky. native was working at the University of New Orleans when an opening for a UC reference bibliographer in 1978 provided the chance to move closer to family.

Since Langsam Library was still under construction, Roberts started his job at Blegen Library, which used to be UC’s main library before Langsam was built. But as he joins the staff in gearing up for Langsam Library’s 25th anniversary celebration, he says the libraries have evolved considerably beyond building a building.

With his background in psychology, Roberts’ first work as a UC reference bibliographer included building the library’s collection in that field, as well as assisting students who were researching the area. He says his interest in librarianship started while serving in the Army in the early 70’s in Germany, where his wife worked at a library there.

“I had met a gentleman who was head of the library there and we became friends. I think it was the reference part of the job that intrigued me, and that was before automation became a buzz word.”

Roberts holds master’s degrees in psychology and in library science, and his job has grown into the fields of sociology and criminal justice, in addition to psychology. He adds that about half of his job duties involve teaching new technologies, as academic libraries remain on the cutting edge of technology.

It’s that technology revolution that is enhancing University Libraries’ reputation of providing excellent service. Roberts, after all, still remembers the library card catalog and the chests of cards that were stored through the libraries. “Now, all of that information is in a database. Classrooms have become teaching labs.”

UC was a founding member of OhioLINK, a partnership of Ohio’s universities, colleges and the State Library of Ohio. The partnership creates an online library with holdings from 84 institutions. “This consortium of institutions has served as a powerful cost-saving tool in acquiring materials,” Roberts says. “Think of what would have to be spent if each library had to purchase those materials themselves.”

Furthermore, Roberts says the libraries’ online resources open the doors to the libraries anytime and anywhere. By using their computers, students and scholars can enter the libraries from their own homes. Even there, they can get personal help from a librarian by using the Chat Reference service.

Randy Roberts

Randy Roberts

Despite the convenience online, Roberts adds the library buildings still get “packed with people. It’s still a place to study and a place to consult.”

Plus, new student service initiatives have dramatically changed the fourth floor of Langsam in the past couple of years. Info Commons has peer mentors who provide personal assistance to students as they learn their way around an academic library. The Student Technology Resources Center not only provides some of the most advanced equipment for student technology projects, but also has student mentors to assist.

And because of technology, Roberts says information is obtained more quickly, more thoroughly and more easily. “In the past, as a researcher, librarian or faculty member, it may have taken you weeks or months to find what you were looking for. With today’s information technology, the process has accelerated significantly. We now have this expectation of receiving information faster. In a matter of minutes, it comes to you, right to your desktop, just by searching a database.

“The way we serve the library user has changed, but service is still at the heart of it all,” Roberts says. “Databases are now friendly enough for people to muddle around in them on their own, but if they need consultation, they can still come to the library, physically or virtually.
“It has been an exciting and interesting voyage. And, it has been fun evolving with the technology.”

Langsam Library’s 25th anniversary celebration begins at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Event Pavilion.


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