A Year of Appreciation
SMU libraries take center stage as milestone celebration continues
At the University's 99th Opening Convocation in August, President R. Gerald Turner told the first-year students, "if you come to SMU without an appreciation for libraries, that will soon change." With those words, President Turner acknowledged the crucial part libraries play in academic life and the reason 2013 has been proclaimed the Year of the Library (YTL) at SMU.
As the unprecedented commemoration continues this fall, the focus turns to the library-community bond reinforced by beloved campus traditions. Convocation, Family Weekend and Homecoming brought together students, parents, alumni and all other University supporters to pay tribute to the special role of libraries in shaping SMU's success today and in the future.
'This is your time'
Before the first day of classes, SMU formally welcomed first-year students to the fold at Opening Convocation, held August 25 in McFarlin Auditorium.
President Turner introduced principal speaker Gillian M. McCombs, Dean and Director of Central University Libraries, as "a person who will play a central role in your academic progress." He commended McCombs for initiating "many innovations and improved services in the interest of students" such as establishing the CUL Student Advisory Council, extending library hours, augmenting technology resources and adding space for group study.
In her speech titled "In a minute there is time . . .", McCombs encapsulated the mixed emotions experienced by students and their families at this pivotal juncture in their lives. Noting that "time is a nonrenewable resource," she challenged students to spread their wings.
"Take risks, try new disciplines, new personas," she said. "This is your time. Treasure it, value it, and make the most of it."
She also divulged some "insider info" about the libraries:
- "You do, as President Turner said, need to get to know the library system and the library staff, because it might surprise you to know that not everything is on Google or available via YouTube. And, you need to do this before you have that 10-page research paper due. It's much better to have your go-to librarian already on speed dial or your BFF list."
- "Get to know the library space. Find your own special nook. SMU Trustee Fred Leach [and chair of the SMU Libraries Executive Board], who graduated in 1983, recently showed me the place he used to study in the Science and Engineering Library."
- "Club Fondy, the informal name for the group of students who congregate at 3 a.m. in Fondren Library, really does have a life of its own."
She also encouraged students to send her an email with any suggestions regarding the Fondren Library Center renovation. "We want your input into this process."
Shaping a hybrid
McCombs described SMU's second-century library and the possibilities it holds during a program at Fondren Library for parents and students October 4. Coinciding with the event, libraries across campus showcased their services and collections at open houses for Family Weekend visitors.
The Fondren renovation will go beyond the "band-aids" of past remodeling efforts in reconfiguring the 268,000-square-foot resource center to fulfill the needs of students over SMU's next century.
The plans call for more study rooms to address the "shift to active learning methods" that center on research projects and team presentations, she said. The demand for study rooms is currently so high that they must be booked weeks in advance.
Infrastructure upgrades will support the library's role as a technology leader, said McCombs. "Nothing happens in the library without technology, and we see ourselves as change-agents for technology."
Today's students experience a "hybrid library" that integrates print and digital resources in a brick-and-mortar setting. Even though those resources also can be accessed remotely via computers or smart phones, "there is always a person behind the technology to help students," she explained.
Joining McCombs to answer questions and provide information about their areas were key CUL staff members, including Mary Hollerich, Assistant Dean of Scholarly Resources and Research Services; Carolyn Carpan, Assistant Director for Scholarly Research; Tyeson Seale, Information Commons coordinator; and Paulette Mulry '83, Director of Development.
May and Carroll Barger of Gastonia, N.C., parents of first-year student Josie Barger, were on campus for Family Weekend when they stopped by for the presentation. They said they were impressed by what they heard.
"I really like the idea of a café so that students will have a place to eat when they're busy studying," Mr. Carroll said. "It sounds like the plans focus on the students and what kind of library will be best for them."
Homecoming, library style
SMU Homecoming took a literary turn this year with a theme of "Boulevard Bound: Many Stories, One Tradition." Book-focused activities paid homage to the Year of the Library throughout the weekend.
On October 26, author and filmmaker William Joyce '81 served as grand marshal of the 87th annual SMU Homecoming Parade. Library staff and their families joined other members of the SMU community at a breakfast held in Joyce's honor at Fondren Library Center before walking in the parade. Sporting red CUL T-shirts emblazoned with "I Hang with the Smart Kids," they traveled the Hillcrest Avenue to Bishop Boulevard route with an SMU first – the Year of the Library float. Along the way they handed out "Smarties" candy and mini Frisbees stamped with the familiar YTL logo as reminders of this significant year in SMU's history.
As 2013 comes to a close, CUL's renaissance is just beginning. Inspired by the impending library renovation, McCombs said she and her staff are ready for momentous changes. "We are charting the course for the next hundred years."