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Vol. XVI, no. 1 TCU Library Newsletter, Web Edition November 2003

Message from the University Librarian -by Robert A. Seal

In this age of technology it might seem strange that libraries need new physical space.  So much of today’s information resources are readily accessible from outside the walls of the library.  The TCU community can access thousands of electronic books and periodicals from the comfort of their home and office computers.  Recent studies, including one here at TCU, show that today’s college students most often first use Google or Yahoo when seeking information.  Librarians are often asked by people in the community, “Isn’t everything on the Internet now?”

The short answer is no, it isn’t.  Electronic resources are increasing to be sure, especially reference works and scholarly periodicals, but so are print materials.  Witness the continued success of the large chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online sellers like Amazon.com.  The result is that libraries need new space for both books and computers.  Academic libraries also require additional space for users.  As I have reported in previous Windows articles, the use of the Mary Couts Burnett Library is up dramatically.  It doubled, for example, between 1998 and 2001, thanks to our then new computer lab and the addition of Bistro Burnett.

Now, in 2003, that success has continued.  During just one week in October this semester, 15,692 visitors passed through our turnstiles and a few hundred others signed in at the Circulation desk.  In that week, 60% of all undergraduates came to the library.  In just one week!  Formerly busy only during midterms and finals, we are now active every day, from the first day of class until the last final exam.  Of course, we are pleased by this attendance pattern and we know from our surveys that our users are generally very satisfied with what we are doing.

The TCU library is bursting at the seams with patrons, collections, and computers and the need for new space for our library is becoming more acute.  Students have fewer places to study in the library these days, in fact our evening staff reports that students sometimes sit on the floor and stairs because all seats are occupied.  Group projects are very common these days and the current facility has very little space to accommodate this type of interaction.  The increased use has also resulted in an increase in complaints about noise in the building.  While many students like and thrive in an environment of talk and group study, others prefer and need quiet.  The library staff is working to alleviate this situation but our crowded building makes it a challenge.

The TCU library must be expanded and remodeled in the near future, not only to address the aforementioned needs, but also to increase numbers of computers and to provide additional stack space.  The shelves are nearing capacity both in the library itself and our off-site storage facility.  A larger building would provide for other needs as well:  a desperately needed expansion of Special Collections, classrooms, meeting rooms, exhibit space, training rooms, a larger Information Commons, new offices, and more.

We are working this year to raise the awareness of the need for new space for our fine library.  Always the center of intellectual activity for our university, the Mary Couts Burnett Library has now become a campus gathering place, a cultural center, a vibrant learning environment, and a gateway to the world of information, both print and electronic.  To continue this success story, we should have a first class library facility.  Our students deserve the best we can offer.

Robert Seal
University Librarian

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