SMU Libraries: Poised For A Second Century As ‘The Heart Of The University’
Jennifer Robb calls Fondren Library Center her “second home.” Robb, a junior majoring in applied physiology and biology, studies in the library almost daily. On the Tuesday before spring finals started, she set up her laptop and checked out a movie to review for a class on Hispanic film.
“When I’m studying or working on a research paper, I never have to leave the library,” she says. “All the resources I need are right here.”
While it is doubtful that SMU’s founders imagined libraries abuzz with students like Robb using laptops, tablets and smartphones, or scholars around the globe gaining access to the University’s special collections via the Internet, they did have a clear vision for building a great University with a library as one of its cornerstones. Provision for the first library was made in 1913, well in advance of SMU’s opening to students
In 1940, Fondren Library, SMU’s first library building, opened with Charles C. Selecman, the University’s third president, speaking these words: “The library is the heart of the University.” That description, inscribed below Selecman Tower in Fondren Library Center, still rings true today.
Fast-forward to 2013 as the University community commemorates the Year of the Library, a 12-month celebration of the fundamental importance of the libraries to the intellectual life of SMU. Programs and exhibitions planned throughout the year provide opportunities to discover the rich resources and one-of-a-kind collections housed in the nine facilities that constitute the largest private academic library system in the Southwest.
The Year of the Library quickly became the year of new milestones. On Founders’ Day, April 19, the SMU Board of Trustees commemorated the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center by presenting a rare volume to DeGolyer Library in honor of former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush ’68. The journal of American explorer John Maley, recounting his 1810-12 travels through the trans-Mississippi West, including Texas, represents SMU libraries’ four millionth volume.
The preservation of Maley’s eyewitness account of exploration illustrates how the libraries have acclimated to the shifting needs of students and scholars over the past century. While honoring the tangible and tactile brilliance of works on paper, the libraries embrace new technology as a catalyst for learning and research. Maley’s original 188-page text will be archived for study today and by future scholars as part of DeGolyer’s already strong holdings on Western Americana. At the same time, the document will be available to researchers everywhere online. Central University Libraries’ Norwick Center for Digital Services team, using its new Hasselblad H4D-200MS – the highest-resolution camera on the market – captured each page of the book as a digital image.
Likewise, the realities of serving new generations of users in new ways require reconfiguring spaces. Renovations planned for Perkins School of Theology’s Bridwell Library and CUL’s Fondren Library Center take into account essential technology upgrades and changing learning styles to accommodate small group study and work on collaborative projects.
Hayden Hodges, a junior majoring in engineering management with a minor in math, likes what he has heard about the remodeling plans. He says there is no substitute for physically going to the library and studies at Fondren Library “about two to three times a week.”
“I like the idea of having more places where students can study together or even just hang out in a comfortable spot,” he says. “The better it is, the more I’ll come.”
– Patricia Ward