A Conversation in Beaman Library, May 2013
“Hi! I just came in to look at our new space.” English Department Professor
“Really? Where is that?” Librarian
“Upstairs. English & Foreign Languages are moving here this summer.” Professor
“Really? What? How? Why? NOOOOOO!” Librarian
Thus began the saga of opening the heart of Lipscomb University wider than ever imagined.
Figure 1. Beaman Library: The Heart of the Lipscomb University Campus
Ask any academic librarian to tick off major challenges and the usual suspects will appear: not enough money for monographs, too much food consumed in the building, no one is serious enough about serials. An afterthought will often crop up: everyone wants library space. When Beaman Library staff learned that two academic departments requiring 13 offices would soon be occupying space in the reference area, it felt like a knife to the heart. There was no shortage of fear and rumor-mongering regarding what would happen to our beloved building and collection. At the same time, what better roommates could librarians ask for than a group of language lovers? As the process of renovation and incorporation progressed, it was clear the surgery the library was undergoing would result in a stronger, healthier heart of the University.
Over the past three years, Lipscomb University’s Beaman Library has grappled with the issues of how to renovate and upgrade everything from the Integrated Library System and Wi-Fi network to reconfiguring physical space in order to better serve our faculty, staff, and students. During 2011 and 2012, we focused on ways to improve our technology which in turn would improve service to our patrons. We began by implementing Innovative’s electronic resources management module and quickly followed with Pathfinder Pro, WebBridge LR, ContentPro, Encore, and Sierra. As wonderful as the technology upgrades were, they still did not address our need for more collaborative study space and a classroom. Little did we realize that after numerous committee meetings and conversations, site visits, surveys, and focus groups that the real adventure had yet to begin.
The library building consists of three floors. The first floor, which is not accessible from the other two floors, houses the Information Technology Department, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Academic Success Center, the Writing Lab, the Fashion Department, and Campus Security and Safety. Beaman Library occupies the second and third floors. The English and Modern Languages (EML) Department was to move into the space that housed the reference collection. In a few short weeks, we had to clear out an entire wing of the library in order for construction to start. How does a staff of 11 people tackle a task that would end up requiring us to shift a collection of over 250,000 books, move every single book, and rearrange and shorten the ranges?
Figure 2. Halloween festivities in the library. Students are shown in the reference area before the redesign.
We started by taking a long, hard look at our reference collection. We evaluated the content and age of each book and weeded a significant portion. Many items that were still in good shape went to the Tennessee Prison for Women where Lipscomb holds classes as part of the Lipscomb Initiative for Education (LIFE). We began a partnership with Better World Books, allowing the library to upcycle discarded tomes. We also considered what material we could move to an electronic format, which led us to add Oxford Quick Reference and EBSCO’s Academic eBook Collection to our electronic resources.
The next big task was to remove the books from the ranges so workers could dismantle and reassemble the shelving upstairs. We shifted every book in our collection that was not in the bound periodical collection. We rearranged where specific smaller collections would be housed. At one time, books covered every available table and floor space except for the study tables in the bound periodicals wing.
Figure 3. Shifting the reference collection.
After the books and ranges were out of the way, construction began. We gained 13 new offices for EML.
Figure 4. Construction of office spaces.
An item long on our wish list--a dedicated classroom for library instruction--was constructed: a classroom with a projector and smart whiteboard as well as an Apple TV. The room is also used for EML classes. Having this classroom in the library is a big win!
Figure 5. New library instruction room.
The redesign of the stacks created an open study space that fosters group study.
Figure 6. The redesign created new spaces for group study.
Figure 7. The reference area after the redesign.
In the end, the whole process of weeding the reference collection, shifting our entire collection, and moving dozens of ranges took only a few short weeks with the help of our hard working students and temporary workers. We learned several valuable lessons throughout the process:
- Evaluate your holdings regularly. Our reference collection was long overdue for an update and required that much more effort to sift through. It also made it seem so much worse to discard thousands of items when in fact many of those items were large, outdated, multi-volume sets.
- Use loss as leverage. By having to weed our collection in such a short time span, we were able to barter with the administration for Oxford Quick Reference and EBSCO’s Academic eBook collection.
- Find partnerships within your library community and outside partners to help give books new homes.
Figure 8. English Department faculty, staff, and students--happy in their new home!
Opening the library’s doors to house the EML department has proved a great way to collaborate with the EML faculty and students. Cake and pizza are just two direct benefits from the influx of these new faces. Oh, and the library recorded 4,000 more visitors during the same 20 days in 2013 as it did in 2012!
Kayce Gill is Serials and Electronic Resources Librarian at Lipscomb University's Beaman Library. Elizabeth Heffington is Catalog Librarian at Beaman Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.