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Sept. 15, 2011
Vibrant hues of red and yellow now color some of the walls. Inviting leather furniture sits adjacent to the service desk. Shelving units on the first floor have been shortened, and books are propped upright on tops of shelves next to themed cases.
Several noticeable changes have occurred inside Northwest Missouri State University's B.D. Owens Library and the University community gathered to celebrate them during a grand re-opening event this week. The changes, Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said, are a bold statement to showcase a new direction for the University.
"The library, in the broad sense of the word, is not dead," Jasinski said. "It's an actual place and there's a need for it to be a place. It's a vital part of student life and student development. It's both a real and a virtual extended classroom, and I challenge anyone who claims technological advances will be the demise of libraries. Technology complements libraries. It doesn't replace them."
Among the changes is the "I-Place," which is short for Innovation Place. The space, which debuted last spring in a corner of the library's first floor, is outfitted with rolling chairs, tables and white boards that make the space ideal for group collaboration. The walls also are covered with Plexiglass on which students can scribble notes. The furniture, library staff have observed, often ends up in a different configuration than the day before, and that's a good thing, they say.
Additionally, computer terminals that once were grouped together are now scattered throughout the first floor, mixed among work tables and book shelves. Also on the first floor, the "browsing collection" is out and the "popular collection" is in, creating a bookstore approach with displays of fiction and non-fiction books that invite patrons to interact with the resources.
The changes are meant to make the facility a more learner-centered environment, said Dr. Leslie Galbreath, Northwest's director of academic and library services, and students are responding positively to them.
"It's fun to watch," Galbreath said. "It's fun to see people respond to what we've done. They're picking up books and thumbing through them, rather than just walking between the shelves. Things are much more open and accessible, not intimidating."
Galbreath added, "Students are coming here and staying here. It's about people and scholarly resources, but also personal development resources."
Almost immediately the library saw an increase in visitors. Door counts for the 2010-2011 academic year were up nearly 21,000 from 193,498 during 2009-2010.
During the month of August, which included the first week of classes at Northwest, the library saw a nearly 90 percent increase in the number of books checked out from its popular collection, compared to a year ago. The total number of items checked out was up about 67 percent, from 846 in August 2010.
The B.D. Owens Library opened in 1983 and is named for Northwest's eighth president who was instrumental in leading the University and securing funding for capital projects in the aftermath of the 1979 fire that severely damaged the Administration Building and altered the Northwest campus.
In attendance for the celebration, Dr. B.D. Owens recalled how he and Northwest leaders envisioned the library as a learning resource center fit for the 21st century.
"What we got was this wonderful facility, and it wedded technology and the book form of learning," Owens said. "Now you can see that's being taken on to the next step. We were hopeful and we thought certainly when it opened that it was on the cutting edge, but now it's even more on the cutting edge."
The library houses more than 368,000 books, documents and bound periodicals with nearly 30,000 periodicals available in electronic format and access to over 24 million items through the statewide catalog maintained by the Missouri Consortium of Academic Libraries (MOBIUS). The facility is also home to Northwest's Writing Center, Center for Informational Technology in Education (CITE) and Teaching Resources Area.
For more information about the B.D. Owens Library, visit http://www.nwmissouri.edu/library/index.htm.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468