Library to face substantial future changes

With bookshelves lining the walls of corridors and students waiting up to an hour for study space, the library is a major part of the latest Vision in Action construction project that is in the preliminary phases of planning, Provost Nowell Donovan said.

Renovations could help students like freshman business major Joe Lang, who said he has sometimes waited up to an hour in the library for a spot to sit.

Dean of the Library June Koelker said the new renovation plan for the Mary Couts Burnett Library would create more seating and better storage for books.

“The average amount of space that a student is using today has not gotten smaller but has actually gotten larger,” Koelker said.

Students usually have their laptops, written notes, a textbook, their backpacks and sometimes bring food, she said.

Donovan said the use of the library has changed due to technology and TCU was in a transition that he hoped would work out within the next decade.

Associate Provost for Academic Support Leo Munson said the Board of Trustees met in early February to discuss the possible reconstruction of the east, or academic side, of campus that would somewhat mirror the residential commons on the campus’s west side.

During this meeting, the trustees essentially gave university officials the go-ahead to start working on the project, Munson said.

Donovan said the university would construct a building behind the library in the area now occupied by the library parking lot. This building would eventually become a part of the library and would provide library storage, study areas with and without computers, and formal classrooms, he said.

Donovan said the ideas were still being cast around but that the purpose of the project was to create a more interactive learning environment where professors and students could come together in one space.

The professors try to engage students in a way that they could discuss and solve problems together, Donovan said.

“Our library has morphed into what you might think of as an ideas factory,” Donovan said.

Koelker said that from the information collected from the turnstiles as students enter the library, she knows that more than 85 percent of students are coming in to the library at least once each semester.

Donovan said the library’s lack of seating was unacceptable and that it was the university’s responsibility to create spaces students need to do their work.

Koelker said each year, the library has added something new to improve the student experience for the student. She said some of those improvements included adding more comfortable furniture, more Frog Pods, installing more electrical outlet circuits, and playing classical music in the reading section.

As far as storage, Koelker said the library has had to move some of the lesser-used materials to a 10,000-square-foot, climate-controlled storage unit on Camp Bowie Boulevard.

“I would like the opportunity to not do a little something, but something really good [for any library renovation],” Koelker said.

In 2009, the university requested a study to come up with potential ideas to improve the library, Koelker said.

Munson said he believed some of the older plans to improve the library could be used but would have to be brought up to date.

During the study, the university requested more research on a new technology called an automatic storage and retrieval system, or ASRS, that the University of Chicago completed in the spring of 2011. ASRS focuses on deep book storage in large steel drawers that would be packed in very tightly, Koelker said. Once the books are stored, she said a mechanical arm would be programmed to know which drawer to pull out when a book name is typed into the system.

Donovan said some space could be made by making journals available electronically and storing them off campus, but he said students still want to be able to browse books freely.

Koelker said the project probably would have focus groups of undergraduate and graduate students in the fall. Until then, she said she would appreciate any ideas emailed to her.

Munson said Donovan and his committee are scheduled to meet in April to discuss further possibilities for the library.