Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Wright State library turns 40

Remains relevant with excellent customer service and adaptive services

Though predictions were grave when the Internet hit the scene, the library and its study tables are busier than ever.

They say wine only improves with age. The same is true of the Wright State University Paul Laurence Dunbar Library, which turned 40 this year.

Library staff, students and faculty will join the campus community in commemorating the milestone Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. in the library, rooms 441/442. The event will celebrate the successes of the library in the present and look fondly upon the sweeping changes it has adopted over the years in an effort to better serve its customers.

The Interlibrary Loan staff (clockwise from left): Barbara Schaper, Steve Wynn, Rahme Ashour and Diana Kaylor.

University Librarian and Associate Vice President for International Affairs Stephen Foster said the library’s staff is the number one reason the library is such an invaluable resource.

“I’ve worked at many university libraries over my career and this is by far, by far, the best one in large part because we have such a great staff, which is really the heart of the library,” said Foster.

Over the years, the library has hosted plenty of memorable events.

Staff remember fondly “An Evening in 1903,” a swanky, black-tie affair in 2003 that celebrated the centennial anniversary of flight. The university’s blast from the past after-hours 40th anniversary party and the hanging of the Wright Flyer were also big events. More recently, the library hosted a Raider wedding—longtime library employees Mary Healea and Ran Raider wed at the library in 2011. Students have also come to look forward to Finals Week Fuzz Therapy sessions that feature cuddle sessions with puppies from the 4 Paws WSU program. The “Lost in the Library” online video series has been a popular social media addition.

Photo of Mary and Ran Raider in the library

Mary and Ran were married at the library. The couple have worked there for a combined total of more than 47 years.

In recent years, nearly every floor of the library has been touched by renovation, including the recent improvements to the first floor front desk, the group study room, and significant renovations to the second and fourth floors.

Sweeping operational changes have come with the adoption of new technology. One of the founding members of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and OhioLink, the Wright State library can be justly proud that it’s adept at changing with the times.

The library’s first web presence, LibNet launched in 1992 just as the Internet was poised to change the world. In the year prior, the library created the Student Technology Assistance Center in response to a growing demand from students to get help learning how to build websites, scan pictures, edit video and create PowerPoint presentations. The demand both domestic and international for eBook access and expertise has led the library’s head of reference and instruction Sue Polanka around the world.

Sue Polanka, head of reference and instruction for the Wright State Libraries shared her e-book expertise with a large crowd at the International Lima Book Fair.

Today the library’s web presence continues to adapt to online demand with the growth of CoreScholar, which is helping the library satisfy its role as an institutional repository, making Wright State’s unique scholarly and creative productions available on the web.

“Libraries are now in the publishing business,” said Foster. “We contracted with BePress for software that enables us to do e-publishing, so we can do an even better job documenting Wright State’s knowledge resource base and its individual output of scholarship and creativity.”

About 500,000 people pass through the Dunbar Library each year and many of those people are students visiting during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Library staff remember well the predictions from 12–14 years ago that the Internet would make the brick-and-mortar libraries obsolete, but still today, students visit and use the resources as much as ever.

The library's lounge and study area near the coffee bar is a popular spot for students to receive one-on-one tutoring help.

“The use of the space has certainly changed and will change with technology, but every school day it is packed here,” said first year experience librarian Maureen Barry. “Students need a space to study, commuter students need a place to go between classes. Even though a lot and more is online than ever before, students still need a place to go.”

And they need people to help them navigate the resources, databases and journals, which is exactly what the librarians want to do.

“We relish the chance to help students,” said Kathi Herick, head of library computing services. “Even 15 years ago when were still on the card catalog system, students needed help. Today some students think they should just know how to find these things, so they can feel embarrassed, but they shouldn’t. We understand and we’re here to help.”

Links to other stories about the library from the Wright State Newsroom:

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