Chulalongkorn University’s Libraries Leap Forward To Digital Platforms

Report Post

Multiple media choices, new digital platforms, and 24-hour availability

Learning methods are always changing, and Chulalongkorn University is changing with them. Its libraries have moved onto new digital platforms, bringing the world to the fingertips of students and faculty via the internet and social media.

The rapid pace of technological change has made managing modern libraries a challenge, according to Professor Dr Vachiraporn Klangthanaboon of the Department of Library Science in the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University.

Libraries today must keep up-to-date with information resources that include print, audiovisual and electronic media in order to serve users who have the knowledge and ability to access a wide range of information at all times through their mobile phones and tablets. The library, therefore, has to adapt — from helping users access original data resources to providing content through new channels that are evolving in line with the needs and behavior of modern users.

Chulalongkorn University has 36 libraries at various faculties, institutes, and colleges, which have all come together in a network called Chulalinet. The Office of Academic Resources is a center for all textbooks, theses and research works. Responding to technological challenges to improve information management is part of the commitment of the Chulalongkorn library system to adaptation.

“The role of the library has not decreased — it continues to be as relevant by distributing new services as the needs of users change,” says Prof Dr Vachiraporn. “For example, e-books, or electronic books, in particular are currently so popular that librarians must continually learn and adapt to understand more about the behaviors of a new generation of users.”

Let’s take a closer look at how some of the libraries on campus are adapting themselves to the new century:

Office of Academic Resources: Unmanned Innovation

The Office of Academic Resources or the “Central Library” of Chulalongkorn University occupies seven floors in the Mahathira Rachanusorn Building, where everyone can see how it has progressed as soon as they step inside. Innovations include an automatic book borrowing machine, a screen to show seating availability on different floors, and a service that facilitates thesis searches and downloads with all material now digitized. User comfort is enhanced through climate control, carbon dioxide and moisture monitoring.

Chulalongkorn students are grateful that the university facilities remain open 24 hours a day in the run-up to, and during, examinations — while enjoying an energetic and lively atmosphere. With monitoring by CCTV cameras, a safe and secure environment is maintained — and for added luxury, there are also reclining seats available for readers during the examination period.

“The Office of Academic Resources will make improvements to the library to bring it up to the ISO9001:2015 rating and will create a ‘Green Library’ by replacing fluorescent lights with energy-saving LED bulbs. It will provide elevators for the disabled and elderly. Everyone will be able to have access to our varied resources,” says Associate Professor Dr Amorn Petchsom, Director of the Office.

In addition, to encourage the young and school pupils to use its services, the Office has opened a branch at the Chamchuri 9 Building, designed as a lifelong learning area. The ground floor is configured as a reading area with a room for board games — available free of charge for students and staff of Chulalongkorn university — as well as students from Chulalongkorn University Demonstration School. On the fourth floor is an area to play e-sports.

Meanwhile, on the second floor of the Chamchuri 10 Building branch, the library brings together theses that have been relocated from the Central Library. Also, the libraries of the faculties of Allied Health Sciences, Sports Sciences, Psychology and Nursing and are all located here.

In October 2019, the Office of Academic Resources made the Chamchuri 10 Building library completely unmanned — there is no staff at all working there. Users simply scan a card to enter the building, select the books they would like to read, and they are delivered via the innovative Mobile Telepresence Robotics (MTR) system. The program operates through the internet — with users connecting via their iPad screen. When the library is about to close, an alarm will remind everyone and then the door will be automatically closed.

“The benefit of an unmanned library will be to reduce the manpower needed,” says Assoc Prof Dr Amorn. “Staff from the Central Library can monitor this library via CCTV cameras and opening hours can be extended as and when needed. This new facet of Chulalongkorn University will be a model for our future university library.”

Faculty of Political Science Library: Up-to-date with Mobile Apps

The Political Science library is one of the oldest social sciences libraries in Thailand. Currently located on the second and third floors of the Kasem Uthayanin Building (60 Years Political Science), the library received an Outstanding Quality Award for Service Efficiency from Chulalongkorn University and also a national award from the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission (OPDC).

Its easy-to-use “PolScimLibrary” website and mobile application make ordering books easy. The app supports fully integrated services via the Find MyBook function. This shows the book’s location on the shelf, with online reservations, notification of books due for return and service to share books for borrowing between libraries at the university, among other services.

As well, a LibraryAnywhere van acts as a mobile library and will move books between the Office of Academic Resources and the Faculty of Political Science. The library also provides books to schools under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration close to the Chulalongkorn area every Wednesday and to the Thai Red Cross Children’s Home every Thursday.

“Our library offers a wide selection of social and political science books, which are regularly updated to satisfy demand. Users will be able to search for and reserve books and to use other services via the application for fast and convenient service. We have received good feedback from students who have evaluated these services,” says Narumon Kitpaisanrattana, Director of the Social Sciences Information Center at the Faculty of Political Science.

Faculty of Engineering Library: A Remarkable Learning Area

Students in the Faculty of Engineering have made their second home at the library in the faculty’s third building. It is a learning area designed to be environmentally friendly and energy-saving, complete with a new generation of lifestyle concepts. Bookshelves are separated from the reading areas — with seating available at both long and single tables, as well as in study rooms, seminar rooms, and quiet rooms.

In addition, an area called “The Box” is designed as a private place for students to work and relax on their own and is equipped with computers for their use. An open space area is provided for organizing various activities, and it can be reserved via the program written by students at the Faculty of Engineering.

“Our library uses the iG Library database from abroad, linking 230 computers and hosting a variety of engineering e-books. New research works can be found via the website of the Office of Academic Resources providing university-wide access and supporting modern, fast-paced learning,” says Supannee Yongkitcharoenlap, Head Librarian.

Faculty of Architecture Library: Creative Incubator

The new three-floored library of the Faculty of Architecture opened in September 2019, is highly unique in its design that embeds concepts conducive to creative learning, an underlying philosophy of the School.

According to Associate Professor Dr. Pinraj Khanjanusthiti, dean of the Faculty of Architecture, the new library departs from traditional libraries in its intent to become a prototype “creative incubator” and knowledge dissemination platform for a design school.
“We are less concerned about how books are shelved, but more about how this space fosters creativity of the minds through many media available and arrangement of space.To put it most simply, flexibility is the key here.” noted Dean Pinraj.

The flexibility in design is well reflected in ample open space, scores of tables and chairs, numerous electrical power plug sockets, and steel frames that stretch along the length of the wall in the lower floors to allow for “co-working and thinking space” where users could meet in small groups or even hold a small exhibition.

While users can access unlimited Wifi available throughout, the new library also caters to book admirers who prefer a more peaceful ambiance with the Quiet Zone on the third floor. In addition, the top floor also houses a small auditorium to allow for extended learning through seminars, films, and animated lectures.

This article was originally published in CU Around August 2019, Vol.62, Issue 8, Page 2-3, available at https://www.chula.ac.th/magazine/21661/