The T.J. Jones Memorial Library is one of North Central University’s most recognizable buildings. Its imposing presence and 20-step climb to the entrance facing Elliot Park captures the hearts and imagination of students and visitors alike.
“Every prospective student who takes a tour stands right here,” noted Judy Pruitt, library director, as she stood just inside the building’s main entrance. But the use of some of the spaces over the years and the “utilitarian” furniture in those spaces has provided neither the aesthetic nor the functionality to match the potential of the space—until now.
This summer, Pruitt is working with library staff, facilities management staff, and volunteers to reshape several spaces in the building. “This work is a direct response to a survey we sent out to students in the spring,” Pruitt said, noting that meeting the needs of students is her top priority in overseeing the use of the library budget and resources.
And the survey says…
During the spring 2017 semester, the library conducted a survey focusing on student use of and satisfaction with the campus library. “We had a healthy number of respondents,” Pruitt said, “and their message to us was clear.” According to the survey:
- NCU students view the library as the best place on campus to study
- NCU students want additional study areas in the library.
- NCU students want dedicated quiet study space in the library.
Based on this feedback, the library developed the following initiatives:
- Open up a new study space in the basement by reorienting the shelving and by editing and right-sizing the print collection in that area.
- Provide space for additional seating in the main floor Reference Room by interfiling most of the Reference collection.
- Repurpose the second floor sunroom as a quiet study area.
- Continue to update and right-size the collection on the second floor to provide an additional reservable study room.
Aesthetics and creativity
Pruitt mentioned that funds donated for library use by a donor will also provide the opportunity to work with an interior designer to guide changes in the front rooms, with the goal of better reflecting the historical elements of the structure. All of the other changes will be accomplished by reconfiguring spaces and moving existing furniture.
One creative solution to the need for quiet study space came with the relocation of the children’s literature collection, previously housed in a room at the end of the hallway on the second floor. “[The] room has always housed our children’s literature collection,” Pruitt explained, “which is wonderful, but that collection really only serves one major—education. It was disproportionate to the number of students we were serving and of the collection we were featuring.”
A winning solution was found by moving the children’s collection to the Education Curriculum Lab in Miller Hall, providing more convenient access for the students who use it most, and freeing up a perfect space for a quiet study area away from the higher volume of traffic on the main floor.
The process has been a labor of love for the library team. Library staff and student employees spent days carefully removing, then re-shelving, the Bible and theology collection in the lower level when the bookshelves were moved to better utilize the space and make browsing the collection more intuitive.
Pruitt is excited for the project’s completion and eager for students to have an opportunity to use the newly configured spaces. “Our main mission in the library is to support students,” she noted. “We anticipate a positive reaction from students to the obvious changes they will experience as they return to the library in the fall. This direct response to their needs as well as the library’s continued efforts to provide relevant resources, impactful instruction, and expert assistance will move us forward in fulfilling our mission to support and inspire student learning and research.”