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Library Director Right At Home In Socorro

SOCORRO, N.M. June 29, 2011 – New Mexico Tech Skeen Library Director Dr. Lisa Beinhoff is celebrating her first year on campus in typical university fashion – she is putting more student computers in the basement of the library, has plans for creating more student study space, and is already hiring more work-study students for the Fall.

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 New Mexico Tech Librarian Lisa Beinhoff
“I’ve been a professional librarian all my life and I love it,” said Beinhoff, sitting in her office with its second-floor view of the campus she now calls home. During her over-20-year career, Beinhoff has accrued a variety of library experience, much of it centered in the hard sciences and engineering fields.

She moved to Socorro with four chatty companions – four parrots that provide a cacophony of sound similar to “four more of me talking at once!” she said. Beinhoff also has taken yoga classes, and has her eye on a metal arts class offered by the Community Education Outreach Program, formerly known as the Community College.

“The community college classes here are really wonderful – we have a really great community college with so many offerings and such nice small classes,” she said. “New Mexico Tech is just the right size.”

Beinhoff knows of what she speaks, having come here from Dixon, Ill., where she was director of the Learning Resources Center for Sauk Valley Community College.

While at Penn State, she dealt with a library which supported the hard sciences; and Sauk Valley had a medical collection. Beinhoff even taught at a library school, Emporia State in Kansas, after receiving her Ph.D. in Communications from Syracuse. “I would love to teach communications courses here at Tech,” she said.

But first things first: The library is understaffed, with the retirements of Thomas McCord in April and Tony Telles last summer. Like other departments across campus, “Everyone here is buckling down and working hard until the hiring freeze is lifted,” she said.

She also has a master of science degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and a bachelor of fine arts in Theatrical Design. Even work in her baccalaureate field has been useful at Skeen Library, she said, in redesigning rooms for more efficient usage.

Her first position in library sciences was as part of a team working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research Laboratory in Urbana-Champaign. It was a desk job, she said, with much of the team’s time being spent writing bids for the Pentagon. “I started out dealing with military material and military reports, so I’m used to them,” she said.

“There were books I could move around, but because their contents were classified, I couldn’t open them. That was fine with me,” she said.

“I keep up on technology – I read a lot,” Beinhoff said. Her favorite genre is science fiction, which is a nice fit among Techies. Beinhoff also reads at least part of every book she orders, because, “If you do not read it, you do not know if the book was what you thought you ordered.”

Since taking over the reins from Owen Ellard, Beinhoff has acquired a subscription to Ebrary, making available to the campus community 51,000 electronic books, which she plans to boost to 70,000 electronic book titles next year. Ebrary offerings are not compatible with the proprietary formats used by the Kindle and the Nook readers, but can be accessed using any Internet browser, such as Safari on the iPad.

“We’re currently in the process of adding all our digital theses and Tech-produced publications to the Ebrary collection,” said Beinhoff, who encourages faculty to purchase eBooks instead of print books because eBooks can not be lost, and can be used by more than one student at a time. “Ebrary is available to the campus,” Beinhoff said, “and putting it behind our firewall allows us to comply with copyright laws.”

“The library experienced some hiccups with its databases when it switched from the Serials Solutions journal locator software to EBSCO’s A-Z list last spring; however, these problems will be corrected by next fall with the full implementation of EBSCO’s Discovery Service, which searches all the Library’s database content with a single meta-search. The new system will help to reduce the confusion of following a series of steps and flipping between different databases,” she said.

The “President’s wish list” gives every department on campus an opportunity to dream big; and, for Beinhoff, that means acquiring an additional nine, new, high-speed, Tech Computer Center-grade computers to augment the 16 non-classroom based computers already available for student use. Her designing eye envisions a home for them in the middle of the Library’s basement, where students could work as teams at large tables with plenty of work space.

“It would be a nice use for what we call ‘our bowling alley,’” Beinhoff said. “We have computers in the Library classroom, but when a class meets in the classroom, whoever was working in there has to leave,” she said.

The nine new computers would increase the number of computers which you can not get bumped off of to 25, and the total number of computers available for student use to 44, she said. “So, if I’m a student, I have a much better chance of finding an open computer when I need one – especially during finals week.”

Beinhoff also wants to consolidate the bound volumes in the basement to provide more elbow room for students to work together in groups, an important concept by current business and industry standards.

The Dark Matter Café is a popular student hangout; and, as such, is in need of refurbishing, she said. Repainting the café’s walls and installing a new counter is her goal for the summer.

“It’s really nice here – this is a really wonderful library facility,” Beinhoff said. “And I have an opening for a person at the circulation desk, working evenings.”

In addition to the parrots, Beinhoff brought with her to Socorro an enjoyment of attending auctions and antiquing. She has visited Santa Fe, and would like to explore the ghost towns scattered across the state.

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech