A Full Service Library Without Case



Mark Fuller

In recent weeks, rumors concerning the status of Case Library have spread like wildfire. Concern about the library’s fate is understandable, but Colgate officials want the community to know there is no need to panic.

Over the past three months, a Library Planning Committee has been working diligently to make decisions about the future of library services at Colgate while Case is under construction during the 2005-2006 academic year. The committee, composed of students, faculty and staff members, has developed a multi-faceted phasing project through which all library space and services will be successfully reproduced in the absence of Case.

As its first order of business, the committee is initiating a communications program to get the facts of the plan out to the campus community. On Monday, February 28, a meeting was held in which the Colgate faculty was updated on the library situation. Tuesday, a campus mailing was sent to students to introduce them to the process that lies ahead.

Further publicity and dialogue will come in the form of a headlining article on the Colgate website, an SGA Media Forum, an information table at the Coop and an open forum for students to ask questions and air their concerns. CUTV has also expressed interest in running a program on the issue.

Though the subjects of study space and access to collections and media are at the forefront, the planning committee wants people to know that none of these changes will occur in any significant way until after the end of the semester. When students do return in August, however, they will find visible differences in the landscape of their academic space. Case Library currently hosts 85 computer workstations and 907 seats. It is Colgate’s goal to match and even augment those numbers in different locations across campus. The new facilities will be centered around James C. Colgate Hall.

This summer, the Hall of Presidents (HOP) will be converted into a study area with 176 seats, 18 computers and 11 audiovisual workstations. Next door, the Clark Room will house 50 computers and be turned into a sort of Picker Classroom – classes during the day and an open lab when classes are not in session.

Donovan’s Pub will be the nerve center of the multi-location library system. The Pub will be home to both the Circulation and Reference desks, along with several computer stations and seats. Coffee and take-out food will be served at the bar.

The former Cutten Dining Hall will provide additional seating, and hundreds of seats will be added to residence halls as well. The Commons and the classrooms of Lawrence Hall will also be opened up to students and faculty in need of study space.

Lastly, the planning committee has arranged for the nightly opening of the Edge and Frank Dining Halls during finals and other peak study times. Traditional locations, such as the Coop and Cooley Science Library, will also remain open. On top of all this, live web cams – accessible on the Colgate website – will help students determine which study halls are too full trouble with. The diversity of new study spaces will much alter the geography of research and studying at Colgate.

The second important aspect of the phasing process regards access to library collections. Since Case will be shut down, Colgate is finding new and creative ways to store the material. The system that has the whole campus talking is the new Library Automated Storage and Retrieval (LASR) System. On the east (hill) side of Case, a massive “box” has already been constructed.

As Committee member David Hughes explained, the new system “contains a three story high set of storage racks which contain more than 4000 storage bins.”

With this system, material, such as books, journals and videos, will be requested over Mondo. Upon receiving the request, the automated LASR system will retrieve the appropriate bin and mechanically send it to the system operator. The operator will then remove the material, label it and transport it either to the Circulation desk in Case for the rest of this spring or the temporary desk in the Pub after June 15.

“We are going to try to do this in the most efficient way possible and minimize the wait time,” Hughes said. “It is difficult right now to make a good guess on what that [wait] time would be.”

A majority of the library material will be housed in the LASR facility, Hughes explained, comprising a collection that accounts for 93 percent of the book circulation.

As for Colgate’s entire reference collection, a temporary home will be found in a large trailer located next to Colgate Hall. Current issues of library journals will be placed in the Cooley Science Library. The process of research will be much different.

“You will have to plan a little better,” Associate Provost Trish St. Leger said, “but you will have access to the material.”

Cooley will provide general reference assistance during the day and an online “reference chat” will be there to help students adjust to the new procedures. In addition, special consideration is being given to rising seniors who will be working on theses under this new system. Storage lockers, located in the HOP, will be provided to assist these seniors.

“The students have a huge voice in the process,” student member of the planning committee and future thesis-writer junior James Silas said.

Silas, among the other committee members, is optimistic about Colgate’s ability to create a successful research and study environment for students and faculty alike.

On March 11, some material will begin to be loaded into the LASR system.

“We will be starting the process with lower use materials,” Hughes said, “like LP sound recordings and microfilm.”

In April, the process will accelerate, and certain resources will have to be requested over Mondo. Librarians will assist students and faculty in the early stages of this process. Cooley Library hours will be extended at this time of initial transfer.

After finals, the evacuation of Case will kick into high gear. The Case collection will be inaccessible to faculty and students doing summer research until mid June, when the LASR system will be up and running. By June 15, Case library will be completely vacated, and construction will commence.

“We will be assessing this process as we go along,” St. Leger said. “When students get back in the fall, they will get the full plan.”

The current communication campaign is important to the planning committee, but it will culminate in an in-depth library education next fall. The orientation process will ensure that no student gets lost in the complex face of Colgate’s new library system.

St. Leger encouraged students and faculty alike to learn the library plans and have some patience with the new system.

“We want to emphasize that, even without Case, there will be full library service next year,” she said.