Friday, October 18, 2013

Michigan State University Library

I am embarrassed to admit that I have never visited the MSU Library. I have come to Lansing numerous times while I have lived in Michigan, but it has always been for some specific purpose that did not bring me near the library. I have visited the Library of Michigan at least three or four times, I used to come to Michigan Library Consortium events, but for whatever reason, did not visit MSU. I am amazed that at many conferences where librarians meet, I see no curiosity in visiting the local libraries. At Michigan Academy I find that I am often the only librarian who chose to visit the host institution's library and talk to their staff. This time I was in Lansing for the Michigan Library Association Annual Conference and was forced to come to the MSU library as I had to pick up the key of the house I was staying in from someone that worked in the library. It was my intention to visit the  MSU library anyway, so this just gave me the extra incentive.

When I asked where I could park, my friend suggested the stadium parking lot. I have to admit the Spartan Stadium felt massive compared to Waldo Stadium, but I remember in my brief time working with the Ohio State women's volleyball team, that the Ohio State stadium was also overbearing.

The library itself is the typical older academic library. Someone at the conference asked me why Western didn't have a new library, when Eastern, Central and others had built new library buildings recently. I explained that we had just gotten a new Education Library and Archives, and that the Waldo renovation was not that long ago. I am fine with our building in general, it is that we have not reorganized our space since that renovation to fit the new needs of our patrons. My main purpose in visiting other libraries is to get ideas for changes in our own library. 

The MSU library has five floors in two wings that are connected only on the bottom two floors. One wing is the "quiet wing" that holds most of the LC classified books and has mostly individual carrels for studying. The other wing has more of the group study rooms and spaces, conference rooms, government documents, maps, current periodicals, the copy center and reserves, fine arts collection (art and music) and the Digital and Multimedia Center.

I asked the reference librarian about their groups study rooms and she said they did not have enough. They have six Collaborative Technology Labs, which have to be reserved (online) and about as many simple group study rooms. I saw places that were just divided off with office room dividers for group use. There was a large fairly loud group working together right in front of the reference desk and the librarian said they had no rooms to accommodate a group of that size.

As in every other library I have visited recently, there was a cafe, the Cyber Cafe, serving high quality coffee - by that I mean having the fancy machines to make espresso, cappuccino, etc. with flavors, etc. They offered snacks like chips and candy, and had one display cooler of more substantial food like sandwiches and salads. There was a fairly large area beyond the counter with tables for eating, socializing and studying.

The first floor had various special collections on display, such as the faculty book collection, Cesar Chavez Collection, browsing collection and new books. The Writing Center had a space not far from the reference area, that they staff Sunday through Thursday 5-10 pm. They said that they had satellite writing centers throughout campus. The reference collection has once again been pared down to a small used section with low shelves, maybe the size of our index shelf area that we are cleaning out.

They have a combined copy center and reserves and on a wall near-by they listed the services this area provides: printing and copying, poster printing and laminating, scanning and faxing, supplies, course reserves, course materials program, and an Espresso book machine for printing on demand.

They have a Digital and Multimedia Center, which also includes the Vincent Voice Library and Technology Labs. My understanding is that this is where they keep all their audio and video recordings and the equipment to listen to and view them. There are staff that can help students create multimedia materials, and I heard someone refer to this area as being the place where things are digitized. This is also the area that contains the ONLY GUEST access computer. There is a table of computers for using the catalog and library resources by the reference desk, but to look at email and Facebook and surf the Web, there is only ONE computer for non-MSU folks. I did not ask about wireless access.

One last comment on signage. It has been noted that it is difficult to find one's way around big academic libraries. MSU's solution is to provide signs and colored tape lines to lead people to the correct areas. They do not have carpeted flooring, so the tape probably works better on their tiled floors, but it is an idea. It also assumes that things will stay in place for a long time, as I can't imagine redoing the tape for every shelf shift.

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