Each year the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), presents three ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries awards, one each to an outstanding university, college, and community college library. The award recognizes the accomplishments of librarians and other library staff as they come together as members of a team to support the mission of their institution. It is sponsored by Blackwell's Book Services, which provides a $3,000 gift to each winning library.
The Georgia Institute of Technology Library and Information Center, winner of the university category in 2007, was selected for its impressive 5-year transformation into being the heart and soul of the university community. Founded in 1885, it is located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. With approximately 18,000 students and nearly 900 academic faculty, Georgia Tech is recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 public universities and top 5 graduate engineering schools (U.S. News and World Report 2006). Georgia Tech’s vision is to “define the technological research University of the 21st century and educate the leaders of a technologically driven world.”
In the 15 years prior to 2001, the Library’s annual visits had dropped an average of 5% per year. Interiors were drab and scarcely improved over several decades, and a high percentage of space was given over to books and other media. A majority of students and faculty complained that the Library was disconnected from the University and inconsequential to their academic success. In mid-2001, a 5-year strategic plan was crafted with both librarian and staff participation.
In partnership with the Tech’s Office of Information Technology, the library made imaginative use of public space for two information commons, a café, a presentation room, and a multimedia center, transforming the library into a place where the community gathers. Programs like CeLIBration during Freshman Welcome Week were created. CeLIBration includes a variety of activities, including games, films, improv comedy, and speed dating. Its goal is to entertain newly-arrived students while familiarizing them with the Library for their future use.
The newly transformed Library and Information Center is comprised of two adjoining structures known as the West and East towers. These buildings, built in 1952 and 1969 respectively, hold over 4.3 million volumes, providing access to collections of more than 270 online databases, 30,000 electronic books, and 23,000 e-journals. A branch Architecture Library contains 45,000 items.
The Library East Commons provides an outlet for student engagement and expression. While it is normally used for small group study, the adaptable furniture, power supply, and audio-visual capability accommodates its use for a variety of purposes. From showcasing undergraduate research through Honors Program poster sessions and presentations, to highlighting the creativity of Georgia Tech students through improv sessions and much more, this space has quickly became a student-owned campus resource.
The Library West Commons provides students with technical support and equipment. The Productivity Computer Cluster is equipped with 10 document/photo scanners attached to iMac computers. In addition to several black and white printers, there is an additional walk-up, express scanning station attached to a Dell computer. User Assistants are generally available in the Productivity Cluster to provide technical and customer support and additional support is available from Library staff at the Information Services Desk.
The ongoing project to reinvent the Georgia Tech Library has created positive outcomes that garner campus acclaim and register a national impact. It is truly a library of excellence, serving both students and faculty. To learn more about the Georgia Tech Library and Information Center, visit www.library.gatech.edu.
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