Monday, October 01, 2012

Kent State University Library

I had research reasons to visit Kent State University Library. I knew 30 years ago that they had a substantial Baltic collection, but had never visited it, and was wondering what was going on with that collection. The collection is now mainly in storage, and is minimally used, thought there is some renewed interest from the Lithuanian community.

While visiting for one purpose, I am always curious to see what other universities have done with their library space. The Kent State library building is 12 stories tall, but only three of those contain books at this point. The top floors contain special collections and government documents, a couple still contain print periodicals, one floor has the School of Library and Information Science, but four floors are devoted to student study space of various kinds.

As I entered the building, the first thing I saw and heard was a reading of some sort going on, and a couple of dozen people sitting or standing around listening. Right in front! As soon as I walked through the gates!

To the right, again, as soon as you walk into the library, the cafe - selling Starbucks coffee, tea, smoothies and a few pastries. Not elaborate, but there, right inside the front door, as I have seen it in so many other libraries.

I went upstairs to my appointment in the special collections, and afterwards worked my way down from the top floor, but I will explain what was on those bottom floors first. The first floor contains the Circulation Desk and Information Commons, which includes the Reference Desk and Reference collection , Express Multimedia Stations, Student Multimedia Studio, Quiet Study Area, Group Study Rooms, May 4 Resource Room, Computer Lab, Group Instruction Lab, and Math Tutoring. That is the official list on the right. The reference collection was in about six half height shelves, (see left), four shelves long. The reference collection and desk also serve the government documents. There was also printing, the cafe, presentation area, and a nice display of all the current bestsellers in their jackets, like one would find at a public library. (Why do we hide ours behind the circulation desk?)

The second floor was another open space with a help center and Math Emporium. I am not sure I totally understood how that works, but it was a huge computer lab for online math courses, with people there to help, when needed. Interlibrary Loan, a periodical and microfilm help desk and student lounge are also on the second floor.

The third floor contains offices and the School for Library Science, but the fourth floor is another open space with comfy seating, hanging partitions and included the Writing Commons. The fifth and sixth floors had periodicals, and one was designated as quiet study space. 7-9th floors had books, but of course they all have study spaces too. My understanding was that they have done major weeding and most of their collection is located in off site storage. It is obvious they have not done it all at once. There are plenty of old tables and chairs in the upper floors, but it looks like they have taken one space at a time and made it pleasant, and useful to the students.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I hope we get back on track and plan for the physical reorganization of our library with a cafe up front. I don't think it matters that there is a nice cafe in Sangren Hall, the students are coming through our doors (and we have numbers) and need more than vending machine coffee to keep them going. We need to keep talking to the Writing Center and other help centers for students, to see if we cannot combine these services. And for just a small doable right now idea - how about putting all the best sellers in that empty corner next to the WMU Authors reading area? With covers, appealing, available for a quick read.

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