Newman Library was once stuffed with books on every floor. Stacks of hardcover and paperback copies filled with a wide range of information stretched from wall-to-wall, leaving little room for study space or group gatherings.

But the rapid advancement of technology in the early 21st century caused a shift in student needs and revolutionized the modern library. 

“We started moving books out of Newman Library in the 2000s,” said Tyler Walters, dean of University Libraries. “The reason is because students were asking for rooms to study in and they needed space for groups to come together. When groups come together, they need technology and they need screens and computers. We needed room to provide those things.”
The removal of books from the first, second, and fourth floors of Newman Library freed up space for amenities and services such as a cafegroup study rooms, a technology lending desk, a virtual reality studio, and a prototyping studio

“Our vision at University Libraries is to enhance teaching, learning, and research through data, information and knowledge,” said Walters. “As a library, we provide books and journals, but we also provide technologies for people to create and learn.” 

Many of the physical books removed from Newman Library have a home in nearby storage facilities.

“We have about 850,000 unique volumes in our main warehouse building, and around 350,000 volumes in our second building.” said Christopher Peters, manager of the Library Service Center.

All of those books are easily accessible through the online public access catalog.

Fast facts: 850 thousand books fit onto shelves that are organized for maximum space efficiency. As many as 200 books, and as few as a single large map box, fit onto each shelf. 30 feet to reach the top of the 160-feet-long stacks (the width of a football field). 1,000s of vinyl LPs, including high quality master recordings of the Beatles, are among the unique items stored at the Service Center. Since the 1970s the Library has been storing items off site at various locations.

Every day, a crew member from the Library Service Center conducts a courier run that transports books from the off-campus storage facilities to the different branches of University Libraries, typically delivering materials the day after the order was received. 

“You can go online and check them out,” said Walters.”You just have to select whether you want the book brought to the circulation desk where you can walk over and get it from there, or you can have it sent to your academic department as well, which is really convenient.” 

With the utilization of off-campus storage, the University Libraries is able to stay committed to providing information through physical books while also offering a space that encourages students and faculty to gather and learn using the latest technology and tools. 

“Times are changing,” Peters explained. “A lot of this material is accessible in other methods, and we must use our space in a responsible manner. I’m just very happy to see that the university has provided funding for off-site storage so we can maintain a lot of our traditional paper collection.” 

The University Libraries will continue to evolve as the technology that fuels modern-day education advances. 

“The vision for the future is to keep on this path that we’re on,” added Walters,“providing technologies and online information as much as we possibly can, and to be partners with faculty and students on campus.”

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