Missouri College Library Renovates and Innovates

East Central College is a two-year community college located in Union, MO, approximately 50 miles west of St. Louis. The school offers over 29 programs, including nursing, teacher education, pre-engineering, health information management, business, and liberal arts, with certificate programs in HVAC, building trades, welding, culinary, and industrial engineering technology. Currently, 2,700 students are enrolled on the main campus and at satellite locations in Rolla, Sullivan, Washington, and Warrenton.

The Union campus library recently completed extensive renovations to its facility and the weeding of its collection. ¿Que Pasa? spoke with Lisa Farrell, Director of Library Services, about the experience, from which she has developed a presentation she has made to various library groups.

QP: First of all, welcome to Amigos! We understand the East Central College Library has undergone significant changes to its facility and collection in recent months. As a way for our regular readers to get to know your library better, could you please give us an overview?

LF: In 2009, the administration building, the first building on campus, began a complete "down to the steel beams" renovation. The library had been housed in this building for 40 years. We had been preparing for this renovation since 2006 by weeding our 40,000-item collection down to 30,000 items. Even with extensive weeding, the collection would not fit into our interim space, a 2,500-square-foot, triple-wide trailer. We hired professional movers to move 10,000 items into storage for 18 months and 20,000 items into the interim trailer in April 2009 – and yes, that happened during the semester! The library staff of five maintained a high level of service throughout the renovation, sans one week for the actual move. After 16 months, the library reopened in Buescher Hall with an open concept for the adjoining learning center.

Upon completing the move, we rearranged our collection into an "Everything in One Place" concept. Research items, including reference and circulating books, documentary DVDs, subject-specific journals, and audiobooks were shelved together using Library of Congress classifications. We varied our shelf heights to fit more oversized materials. Our nursing students can now find nursing journals, reference, and circulation books on diseases, and how-to DVDs in the RTs. We retained a Leisure/Popular section of books (print and audio), feature film DVDs, music CDs, and magazines. Our "special" collections include a children's collection of print and audiobooks, donated Abraham Lincoln subject-specific books, and larger, oversized books mostly of art and photography.

After our renovation it took us six months to unpack, weed, and reshelve the stored items. Our resulting collection today is a vibrant 25,000 items.

QP: Sounds like an impressive undertaking. Have you noticed an increase in library traffic resulting from these changes? Any user comments?

LF: Anecdotally, there is an increase in use of the library space, and our circulation numbers have been consistent. We do not have any hard numbers relating to the new open concept of our library and learning center. None of the four entrances to the library has a gate counter, or, for that matter, security gates. The cost to purchase and maintain a system and lack of staff to respond to gate alarms forced us to go without security for our materials. We do have DVDs and CDs in individual security cases. While it's only been a year, we haven't noticed a high incidence of materials walking out the door.

We have a variety of seating configurations, and we rearranged the furniture between semesters to accommodate requests. Students love our Quiet Zone study area, with its individual booths, cushioned seating, and electrical outlets. They are the first areas to fill up every day.

QP: Could you tell us about the presentation you developed from this experience?

LF: In June of this year I presented, "Smell the Roses: Weed, Transplant, and Renovate," about our experiences to the MOBIUS Annual Conference in Columbia, MO. In it I noted how we discovered that even in weeding our collection by 30% our circulation did not decrease. We've always been into renovating where we shelve, how we display, and how we label. This presentation hopefully shows what small changes libraries can make, and how any library can do these things no matter how small their budget.

QP: In addition to the facility changes, we understand the library has also adopted the Credo General Reference service. How has that been received so far?

LF: Actually, I was quite surprised at the students' use of Credo. In our one-shot Library Research Instruction, I mention that Credo is similar to Wikipedia but CREDIBLE. This must have hit home, because our Credo usage statistics are high.

QP: That's a great way to look at Credo, and it seems to have resonated with your students. You also use other systems familiar to Amigos Members, such as Naxos Music Library and Grove Music Online. How would you rate the value of these services?

LF:Our music students and staff love Naxos and Groves. We have five user accounts in Naxos, which seems adequate for our student body. Our faculty finds the majority of the music required for its classes in Naxos. It's available off campus with 24/7 access, which is very important to our students. Our Oxford Online, which includes Grove Music, is not accessed by students as much as we'd like. But the faculty loves the resource, and we are working on ways to increase students' use of this rich music resource in this academic year. I would love to hear from other Amigos members who might have ideas for how to do that.