CORVALLIS - They call it "mediation services" and officials say it's the wave of the future for students hoping to access the dizzying array of information available in the electronic world.

Whether users need to find bio sketches of Fortune 500 chief executive officers, download an image of da Vinci's "Last Supper," or create multimedia presentations for a class project, help is available.

And few places in the country will have more available help for college students than Oregon State University, which is embarking on a $40 million expansion and renovation of The Valley Library, said Melvin George, university librarian. When completed in fall 1998, the library will have an "Information Commons" to help students and faculty with an array of technology challenges.

"It once was hoped that when the Internet was established, the need for mediation would disappear," George said. "Just the opposite has occurred. So much is available, things are harder to find."

OSU's Information Commons will house professionals now working in the university's Computing Center, Communication Media Center, and library. They will be available 24 hours a day to consult with students on locating data, formatting screens, creating programs and helping with tasks that can't even be anticipated in 1996.

There will be graphic designers and software experts; video specialists and computer engineers; librarians and troubleshooters.

"Our plan is to employ a triage desk to find out what needs students and faculty may have, and then direct them to the right consultant," George said.

The specifics will come later, George said. Technology has changed so rapidly in the last couple of years that OSU isn't even planning its equipment purchases for the library until the summer of 1998 - just a couple of months before opening. Things change that quickly.

"I remember growing up in rural Minnesota before World War II in a small town without electricity," George said. "It was hard to visualize what life would be like with it, or how dependent we would become upon it. We're facing the same thing with technology all over again."

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Mel George, 541-737-3411