By SARA GIBONEY
KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney Student Government leaders are advocating for upgrades to the Calvin T. Ryan Library.
Student body president, Rachel Flaugh, and vice president, Paige Kordonowy, are finalizing a student survey to give Student Government and UNK administrators insight on what library improvements would serve students best.
The survey is expected to be sent to students this month.
Flaugh and Kordonowy have been working with the dean of the library, Janet Wilke, and other administrators in researching comparable university libraries and looking at the feasibility of upgrades.
“Aesthetically, students need a place they can study that’s motivational, quiet and allows them to focus, and is a modern space that has the technology resources that they need,” Flaugh said.
“It’s also important to look at different services that we could bring into the library, such as a coffee shop to make it a fun, interactive place that people gravitate to on campus when they’re looking to study.”
Kordonowy said more classes are focusing on group work, and the library doesn’t currently have a lot of space for collaborative class work.
“We are always working to make the library as comfortable and inviting as we can,” said Wilke. “Some of what we do is at no cost, such as moving furniture to create as many kinds of study/gathering places as we can. For minor cost we have added bean bags, which have proven very popular.”
Last summer, the main floor computer lab was renovated to develop spaces for students to work together with their laptops.
The Learning Commons, a student-centered space on the second floor of the library, was also added several years ago. The Learning Commons is a collaboration between the library and Division of Student Affairs. Tutoring, language support, supplemental instruction, writing center services and success coaching all take place in the Learning Commons.
The student survey will ask students what type of study space would be most useful, what type of technology they would use most often and what type of retail options they would use at the library.
“It gives the administration an idea of which retail options would be most used in the library so they have a direction when they’re researching options that are student led,” Kordonowy.
Students taking the surveys will also be able to share their own ideas for the library in a comment section.
“Certainly the Library is in need of an overall evaluation, of both the facility and services offered, to determine what will best serve the 21st Century university student,” Wilke said. “The last significant renovation/addition was completed in 1983 – 34 years ago. Suffice to say, quite a number of things have changed since then.”
The Calvin T. Ryan Library was built in 1962 for $700,000. The library was designed to house 200,000 volumes and seat 900 students.
The designation of the library as a depository for documents issued by the Government Printing Office in 1976, and the growing book and periodical collections, required an addition that nearly doubled the size of the library in the 1980s. The $4 million renovation and expansion accommodated 25,000 new books, journals and resources and 1,250 students. The new library featured new study areas, seminar rooms and furniture, and cable television and computer wiring was installed.
The Athena and Charles Mitchell Telecommunications Center, which housed the radio and television studios, classrooms, offices and the Learning Materials Center, was also part of the expansion.
By 2005, the library featured 400,000 books, 225,000 government documents, 1,100,000 microforms, 1,630 periodical subscriptions and offered access to 97 computer databases, web-based indexes and the Internet.
“I’m a straight up nerd. I’m a chemistry major, and I have a personal interest in making the library a really cool, collaborative space,” Flaugh said. “The library could be a really inspiring space for students to get together and collaborate. That’s what a library should be.”
Both Flaugh and Kordonowy served as Student Diplomats giving tours of campus to prospective students and their families.
“It’s really important for tour groups of students and parents to see that our campus is academically focused. By improving our library, it shows that UNK is acknowledging that focus,” Flaugh said.
After students take the survey, results will be presented to Student Government and UNK administrators.
“We’re hoping that we can renovate the library in a way that allows more collaboration among students, allows more interactive study experiences and features a coffee shop that is organized in an easy-to-navigate format,” Flaugh said.
Said Wilke: “Everyone at the Library is excited and thankful that Student Government is actively involved in helping to address needed Library improvements. The Library is here for them, their input is the most critical component in the project.”