Since the school’s founding in 1892, the library has played a key role in supporting faculty research and student learning. From its humble beginnings in a small classroom to its current prominent location at the center of campus, the library has sought to keep pace with emerging scholarly trends, changing researcher needs, evolving uses of technology, as well as a growing student population. This third and final blog post about the history of the library at UNCG will examine the profound changes in its collections, services, access tools, and spaces between the years 1973 to 2013.
By the start of the 1973 fall academic term, the multi-story tower project was completed and open to students. The renovation of the 1950 portion of the library complex began in December 1973 and was completed within ten months. The new library addition provided 119,000 square feet of floor space. This new space increased the overall number of study carrels and public seating as well as shelving for books. The library director Dr. James Thompson confidently declared that the new space was designed to house a total of one million volumes. He expected the library to reach its storage capacity within 10 to 15 years.
During the 1970s, academic libraries were feeling the impact of new computer technology and resources. In April 1977, Jackson Library offered a new service to its faculty. Employing a computer terminal, library staff provided users with bibliographies that drew on forty computerized data files. Thus, if a faculty member was looking to assemble a bibliography for a research project, they could pay a fee (ten to thirty dollars) for librarians to search data files and compile a single print out of a list of potential useful titles. This service would allow the researcher to skip the task of looking up the titles of scholarly works in bound print indexes. By the early 1980s, the library automated its serials list and joined a national inter-library loan network of 2,400 libraries.
Within six years of the completion of the construction and renovation projects, the library was reporting a space crunch. Additional shelving units were being added on the floors of the new tower building. To accommodate this new shelving, the library was forced to give up space for public seating and even some staff offices. In 1982, the library reported that the library’s holdings of books approached 600,000. Between 1970 and 1982, the library’s book holdings increased from 320,118 to 594,325. The libraries total holdings of books, journals, and micro-texts grew from 466,999 in 1970 to 1,393,522 in 1982. This rapid expansion of materials was intended to support the demands of an active research university. Interestingly, the library director in 1982 gravely noted that due to the inflationary costs of books and journals as well as deep state budget cuts, the rate of purchases actually slowed thus preventing even a worse space crunch. Along with collection growth, the library more than tripled its personnel and added new services that put additional strain on library space.
With steady advances in library technology, Jackson Library actively sought to adopt new practices and technologies to improve collection management and user services. For example, the library undertook the reclassification of its entire holdings and moved from the Dewey Decimal System to the Library of Congress Classification System. The goal of this 1983 project was to align with the best practices of its peer institutions. In 1984, the library acquired its first public stand along “micro-computer.” The computer was an IBM PC with twin diskette drives and a 10 megabyte hard drive.
In 1986, library moved forward in purchasing an integrated online computer system. It was affectionately called JACLIN. The acronym stood for Jackson Library Information Network. It was an online catalog with circulation, acquisition, and serials components. To support the adoption of this integrated system, the library in 1987 took on the challenge of assigning an individual bar code to each of its 700,000 books. The library’s 70 staff members were tasked with affixing bar codes to books and inputting the data into the new automated system. During the 1989 fall semester, the JACLIN system went live. Books were now being checked out to patrons by scanning the code on the borrower’s University ID as well as on the book’s assigned bar code. With twelve computer terminals installed within the card catalog area of the library, patrons could now gain instant access to an individual book’s circulation status and location.
The new library director Doris Hulbert noted that the automated system also allowed patrons to search if a book was located at any of the other UNC system school libraries. With an estimated 9 million catalog cards stored in the catalog area, Hulbert remarked that “many of us have a great fondness for the card catalog, and there is some trepidation about seeing such an old friend go. But once people get used to the old system, they’ll see how helpful it can be.” In 1993, the library completed the removal of the wooden cabinets and cards of its old card catalog system.
With the removal of its card catalog, the library was able to free up space to accommodate new services and technologies. In 1994, a teaching lab was developed to assist faculty and students on accessing online data bases. The newly constructed space was named the Electronic Center for Information Technology and Instruction (CITI) lab. It contained 20 multimedia NCR 486 computers, a computer file server, a projector, desks and chairs, and other support equipment. Along with the new classroom and equipment, the library hired its first electronic resources information librarian to teach students how to effectively locate and integrate online content into their research.
The designated information literacy sessions sought to nurture student critical thinking skills by comparing and contrasting traditional and electronic resources. Recognizing the campus demand for access to personal computers in 1997, the library repurposed 7,200 square feet of space and partnered with the University’s Information Technology Services to establish a computer lab for students. The space was called the Super Lab. It was the largest open access computer lab on campus with 125 individual work stations.
With opening of the University’s new Music Building in 1999, the library was able to move its music collections to a designated library space within the elegant modern structure. Jackson Library still served as the central library for the campus. But, the new music library served as a satellite library that met an important teaching and research need. In 2012, the music library was named to honor Dr. Harold A. Schiffman who is a Greensboro native and music educator. Schiffman made a $2 million planned gift to the University. The library now began to refer to itself as University Libraries.
During the decades following the construction of the tower, Jackson Library transformed itself to meet the research needs of its faculty and students during a time of rapid technological change. Indeed, the budget of the library was shifting in terms of monies allocated towards the purchase of physical books and monies for the purchase of electronic resources. To be sure, the library continued to purchase books. In 2001, Jackson Library celebrated the purchase of its one millionth volume. To mark this milestone, the library purchased a rare first edition of William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. It was one of only 315 copies produced in 1826, a year before Blake’s death. Including its one millionth volume, the library in 2001 had over 2.3 million items and over 140 databases and 3,000 web pages.
The pace of change in libraries and in higher education caused by technology seemed to accelerate at the start of the new millennium. Jackson Library strove to adopt additional access tools and services to support faculty research and student learning. At the same time, the student population of the University was growing. So, the number of folks using library resources was increasing. Due to the heavy demand and steady increase in the student body, there were a number of conceptual plans were developed that envisioned the construction of new adjoining structures that accommodated new instructional spaces, collection storage, tech labs, and even a café. Yet, the price tag for these plans was of a significant dollar amount.
In the mean-time, the Dean of University Libraries, Rosann Bazirjian, recognized that Jackson Library needed to do more with its current space. In 2008, the library conducted a space assessment study to consider a number of smaller renovation projects. These proposed projects included the construction of: an information commons, meeting spaces, storage space for special collections, as well as the relocation of the circulation desk. Over the next five years, the library diligently acted on many of these proposed library enhancements. In addition to these projects, the library identified an emerging need for a space to support students who create multi-media projects. The new space would be called the Digital Media Commons (DMC). Library staff would assist students with the development of web pages, digital images, digital video, and PowerPoint presentations. In 2012, the library repurposed a collection storage area in its lower level to accommodate the DMC. This renovated space housed a service desk, consultation rooms, four student collaboratories, numerous individual computer stations, scanning stations, a gaming lab, a presentation practice room, a recording space, and several digital editing rooms. Within a year of its launch, the DMC would expand its services to include 3-D printers.
This is the third and final blog post related to the history of the library at UNC Greensboro. The three blog posts sought to document the critical role the library has played in supporting faculty research and instruction and student learning. The library’s dedicated and skilled staff have always offered innovative solutions to meet emerging research trends, changing instructional and technical needs, and shifts in scholarly communication.