Coming of Age
A Renovation Project Is Transforming The Macon State College Library Building Into an Academic Resource For 21st Century Students
By Sheron Smith
Photos By Bruce Radcliffe
Dr. Barbara Frizzell, left, Macon State’s vice president for academic affairs, reviews the Library renovation plans with Pat Borck, Library director, and Tim Vick, Academic Resource Center director.
Chadwick Dent may be the ideal patron of a contemporaryacademic library.
An information technology major at Macon State College, Dent visits the campus Library several times a week. He’s completely at ease using the computers there for research and other tasks, but he also enjoys the distinctly non-virtual activity of perusing the stacks, sometimes in search of a specific book, sometimes just to see what’s there.
“It’s a good environment for me,” said Dent, 23, noting that he could probably do most of the research for his bachelor’s degree
through the Internet and seldom set foot in the Library. “But then I’d miss out on getting full use of all the resources. The Library
is very student-friendly and a great place to study.” With the ongoing shift of academic resources to online databases
and other digital formats, colleges nationwide are discussing ways campus libraries can embrace new technologies while maintaining important traditional roles.
Macon State College leaders are confident they have found a good balance. Thanks to a $5 million appropriation from the Georgia Legislature in early 2004, work is underway to transform the Library into a modern research and resource center, one that better integrates traditional services with the burgeoning technological tools available to today’s computer-savvy college
Considering that the two-story building still uses some furnishings from 1968 - the year Macon State College opened - students,
Cfaculty and staff look forward to the completion of the long-needed upgrade. But the work is not about aesthetics. faculty and staff look forward to the completion of the longneeded upgrade. But the work is not about aesthetics.
“One of our highest priorities has been to develop a new Library that supports our mission as a four-year college,” said President David A. Bell. “When state leaders provided the funding to help us do just that, it was a transformational moment in the
development of Macon State College. Renovation of the Library building is the next step in our mission to provide baccalaureate
education that is grounded in the liberal arts yet unlimited in reach through technology.”
In the College’s earliest days, the building contained not only the Library but every administrative and student support function including a recreation room, cafeteria and bookstore. As the campus grew, the building gradually evolved into a student learning center with the Library as a self-contained entity on the top floor and the Academic Resource Center, or ARC, occupying part of the bottom floor along with some other College services.
Macon State students work at computer stations in the Library while others search for books.
The renovation is expanding the physical space and resources of both the Library and the ARC so they can work together more closely to support students as they learn and faculty as they teach. The bottom floor will have room to house the Library’s reference section, book checkout and other circulation services, the ARC and computer stations. Also available will be “smart” classrooms wired for technology that Library and ARC staff will use for special instruction and orientation classes.
Most Library staff will relocate from the top floor to the bottom floor. The arrangement will allow the Library and ARC staffs to offer various services in tandem, such as tutoring, research and writing assistance, that students need. For example, a student could use a digital tutorial through the ARC for help with her biology class then access an electronic database through the Library to research an English paper.
The top floor will house the bulk of the Library’s collection of printed materials, with the shelves of books – the stacks – rearranged and windows widened to allow more open space and natural lighting. Group study areas will also be available on the top floor. While all entrances to the building will be located on the bottom floor, the two levels will be connected by a central staircase and elevator to create the feeling of a unified space.
“The Library is the academic center of every institution - the heart of teaching and learning - so this renovation project is of profound importance to us,” said Dr. Barbara Frizzell, Macon State’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.
“Technology is fundamental to the renovation plans, but the Library will remain a place where students and faculty can research and reflect,” she said. “As we expand our baccalaureate programs, the Library building’s advanced technology and traditional role as a storehouse of knowledge and ideas will be of great significance.”
When Pat Borck began working at the MSC Library in 1990, students still searched through the cabinet drawers of the card catalog to locate books. An online catalog called GIL was introduced several years later, and the old cabinets were tucked into a seldom used corner of the Library as students switched to tapping on computer keyboards to find what they needed.
The advance of technology hasn’t slowed since, but Borck, now the Library director, said the renovation will emphasize new ways of doing business like never before.
“It’s no secret that nearly all students these days turn to digital resources first to do their research,” she said. “Part of our job as librarians in the digital age is to not only show them how to access those resources but help them determine what is and isn’t a valid source of information. Working more closely with the ARC will help the Macon State College Library make full use of technology on behalf of our students. At the same time, I think the renovation will enhance some of the Library’s more traditional roles, like providing an intellectually stimulating place to read and study.” Tim Vick, the Academic Resource Center director, agreed that the expanded technology resulting from the renovation project will allow the ARC to provide the services expected of a fouryear college. The ARC will expand computer-, Web- and CDbased resources that support students taking upper-division courses and the faculty who teach them.
“The integration of the ARC and the Library will allow us to establish a level of service that few other colleges or universities can match,” Vick said. “It will be a very effective balance of traditional library services with state-of-the-art technology.”
The renovation is creating a buzz among Macon State faculty members who have long recognized the need for a modern learning center. As chairman of the School of Information Technology, Dr. Jeff Stewart well knows how IT is changing the ways that students access academic resources.
“With this renovation project,” he said, “the College has found a creative approach to taking advantage of the latest technologies while enhancing the Library as a focal point of the campus.” Even those who remain nostalgic for the traditional library of their own collegiate days recognize that students growing up in the Information Age need and want something more.
Dr. Robert Kelly, chair of the Division of Humanities, and Dr. Debra Matthews, assistant professor of English, acknowledged that online resources have facilitated much of their own scholarly work. But they and others consider what Kelly called “the visceral experience” of roaming library aisles and exploring books to still be an important part of higher education.
“I’m excited about the new opportunities the Library renovations and advances in technology will offer Macon State students as they become lifelong learners,” Matthews said. “Technology is opening doors for college faculty, too, yet I still value the experience of visiting the Library, turning the pages of a book and enjoying moments of quiet reflection. Those are the kinds of experiences I want my students to have in addition to using the technology.”
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