Public library seeks improvement

A student studies inside Helm Library on Friday, Aug, 25. Remi Mays/Herald

Olivia Mohr

Last year, WKU Libraries received a request from the biology department for the placement of a set of plastic human bones on reserve in the library, which the nursing department helped facilitate. The collection became so popular that the library got a second collection.

Students from some anatomy and biology classes are often required to memorize the names of bones and have a chance to touch and feel bone collections, and the library’s collections are “in constant demand,” said head of the department of Library Public Services Brian Coutts.

The reserves section is located on the second floor of Cravens Library and is within the Visual and Performing Arts Library.

“It’s one of the more interesting things [on reserve],” said coordinator of the Visual and Performing Arts Library Katherine Pennavaria. “We don’t usually have non-book and film things.”

The library receives several requests, which students and faculty either give in person or put in suggestion boxes around the library.

Students make requests in the suggestion boxes regarding what books or other materials they would like, the temperature of the library, the furniture or art, the lighting, the need for more outlets, the need for more study rooms, noise levels and several other requests.

Two more unusual requests were page-long requests for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies and for a “special collection dedicated to disaster studies and apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic literature, research and film.”

The suggestions are gathered a couple of times per month by staff in circulation and brought to public services. Coutts looks at the requests and sends them to the departments or coordinators that will be able to meet them.

After a request is answered, it is put on a bulletin board on the fourth floor of Cravens Library along with the library’s responses so students can see how the library has responded to issues.

Coutts said the library tries to respond to student requests to the best of its ability and in a timely fashion, but sometimes the library already has the materials or does not have the funding to meet requests.

For example, the library responded to the request for a “special collection dedicated to disaster studies and apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic literature, research and film” by saying the library already has the materials so it does not need a special collection.

Many student requests are met, however.

Several requests ask for new or reupholstered furniture, and the library has since remodeled the fourth floor and bought new furniture for the fifth floor. Coutts said his goal is to remodel the higher floors as well.

Coutts and several other faculty and staff members want a new building because the library opened in 1971. However, he said there will likely not be enough funding.

Many students requested more outlets, and the library has since installed KwikBoosts and more outlets with help from SGA.

“Our role is to meet the needs of the students,” Coutts said. “The motto of [the public services] department is always ‘find a way to say yes.’”

The library has recently added more art, and it often buys student creations.

“We think it makes a library more appealing,” Coutts said.

Library facilities coordinator Daniel Peach hangs most of the art, and he receives requests regarding furniture and maintenance. He said he feels students’ comfort is important in the library.

“You want them to feel comfortable in a welcoming space,” Peach said. “That goes for everything, whether it’s facilities or just the way that faculty and staff interact with students.”

Peach said he also feels it is important for the library to make changes as times change.

“We all understand the way students study or that people receive information is changing rapidly, and it has been for a long time, so we know we have to keep changing with the times as much as we can or as much as we see to kind of provide students with reasons to come here,” he said.

Pennavaria said she hopes students will use the suggestion boxes more often.

“I think it’s sometimes easy for people to overlook, but I would love it if people put more stuff [in them],” she said. “The more they suggest, the more I understand that I’m getting the things that the people who really use the library want.”

Reporter Olivia Mohr can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]