UW Libraries Continue to Grow

January 25, 2012
Coe Library computer lab
UW Libraries continue to pursue membership in the Great Western Library Alliance, a consortium of 32 research libraries in the Midwest and West. Membership is a hallmark of quality for research collections. (UW Photo)

It's been a little more than two years since the opening of the major addition and renovation of the University of Wyoming's William Robertson Coe Library. During that time, the library has continued to grow in its collections and use by UW students, faculty and staff.

The addition and renovation of Coe Library involved more than 281,000 square feet and includes 20 group-study rooms and 180 computer terminals. Located east of the existing library, the 94,500-square-foot addition is designed to shelve a capacity of 1.4 million books.

New spaces within Coe Library, designed to reflect students' learning styles, include flexible study space, quiet study spaces and the integration of technology with instruction services. Students have taken advantage of the computer lab, which is open almost on a daily basis, even up to 24 hours at a time during most school days.

An improved facility is only part of UW Libraries' growth. Collections also are an integral part of what will make the library system even better.

Maggie Farrell, UW Libraries dean, says the library system focuses its collection on the university's curriculum and research needs. University Libraries' collections include an extensive media collection of films, television programming and music. This collection supports the inclusion of media in teaching and student projects.

"Unquestionably, the resources of the UW libraries are used every day by researchers -- both faculty and students -- but the collections fall short of those found at research libraries at comparable universities, and that has a direct effect on competitiveness," Farrell says. "Research in the field shows a strong relationship between the size of a university's research collection and its success in securing research grants."

She says the libraries anticipate adding approximately 24,000 to 60,000 books to the collection annually and significantly increasing electronic book collections. In addition, the library will add new electronic journals to meet the teaching and research needs of the university.

In planning to expand the collections, UW Libraries continue to pursue membership in the Great Western Library Alliance (GWLA), a consortium of 32 research libraries in the Midwest and West. Membership is a hallmark of quality for research collections.

"One of the benchmarks a research library must meet is the size of collection. Smaller universities with GWLA membership have collections of about two million volumes; larger universities have more," Farrell says.

Currently, UW has about 1.5 million volumes, and the university is seeking additional collection funding to provide teaching and research tools comparable to those at other research universities.

"The goal of additional funding is to build a national-caliber library environment to support UW's teaching and research missions," Farrell says.

Collection funding will enable UW to enhance library collections that support undergraduate and graduate student learning; improve research collections for faculty, including attracting and retaining top-tier instructors; and provide an infrastructure that supports faculty endowed chairs through recruitment of nationally known scholars coming from academic institutions with research libraries. In addition, the Wyoming State Library, county libraries and the community college libraries can partner to build a statewide information infrastructure that will support economic development, energy research and development, and education for lifelong learning.

Memberships in the GWLA and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) are benchmarks in determining how UW compares with similar research universities, Farrell adds. Some of the benefits in GWLA are free and priority interlibrary loans with other GWLA research libraries; significant discount on purchasing scholarly resources negotiated by GWLA; collaborative training opportunities; grant support for joint projects; and digital initiatives funded by GWLA.

Recent funding for UW Libraries was supported by students through a two-year, 5 percent tuition increase -- half of which is dedicated to libraries, Farrell says.

"But the full bill cannot realistically be borne by students," she says. "Additional state funding is required to continue to work on the university goal of developing a pre-eminent research library comparable with notable research universities of the West."

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