Porter Henderson Library (Day)

Renovative construction on the first floor of the Angelo State Porter Henderson Library is scheduled to begin Monday, May 9. The construction and views about the changes starting in the library have sparked conversation among students, faculty and alumni.

“I got here about four years ago as director, and the president and the provost, when they hired me, were very focused on making sure that all of the services were modern and appropriate and gave us an ability to serve students that were year residents as well as students who were out taking classes through dual credit sites, or anywhere that they are out in the world that they're enrolled at ASU from,” Executive Director of Library Services Chris Matz said.

Matz felt that some change was needed to accomplish that goal. “I mean, we didn't have enough seating and some other things, but you could come in this building and know where things were and probably have enough space for you and your friends to meet,” Matz said. “But we have a lot of things that were duplicated by our digital resources, which we were growing then, and we're continuing to grow now.”

Matz also feels that innovation is required to reach all students better. “I also tell folks that all of the growth on campus is going to be where we do our hiring, where we do our enrollment is going to be distance,” Matz said. “It's all online stuff. And you know, if you're active military and you're overseas, or if you were a dual credit student in another part of the state, or you're an online graduate student, and wherever it is that you're enrolled here at ASU, these items are not so much useful to you. Knowing that there are items like that that have digital access and that, when we purchase those books, we're striving to make sure that we don't just get a single digital object. We create multiple points of access.”


Growth and change can affect the library in different ways. “In a perfect world, we have a building large enough to keep all those things and then keep growing the digital side, but real estate is important,” Matz said. “The one thing I know they won't do is build us a brand new building, so we're trying to figure out what that sweet spot is between. If we know it's duplicated and it's appropriate to share it with more people in the digital format, if we give up some of the print resources and then build out things and improve the area, is that a good trade-off? And I think so far it is. This is based on a lot of input that we've received from students and employees over the years.”

The growth of the digital library has led to book collections being withdrawn over the years, however. “It's a normal and healthy activity for any library at any point in history to say, ‘thank you for your service item or series of items,’” Matz said. ”We're now making way for something new or something improved. And I think this library probably feels more like we're lurching or swerving because it's not a thing that we've done lately.”

In the past few years, digitalizing the collections has gained more traction in the library. “In recent history, winter 2020, which I know was a complicated time, we were moving through consolidating our print reference collection, which took up about 15% of the first floor,” Matz said. “We realized that more and more students were seeking help with research and just kind of general library orientation online.”

The library has a method to consider which books will be retired and taken out of circulation. “The goal is to meet information needs, even when we get rid of things,” Matz said, “I apologize for that phrase because it makes it sound like I'm just looking for a trash can to throw things in. Even in ones and twos, it's a considered process. I mean, reasons that it's considered, we don't do anything randomly.”

What happens to the books after being retired from circulation may be more complicated than it seems. “When we purchase items, physical objects here to the library, the larger accounting system that is state government says, ‘that's an asset,’” Matz said. “We have to be able to retire them in such a way that says, instead of like, ‘oh, I've taken this out with the catalog, so you won't look for it anymore, but I know you’re a big fan, here you go.’ I can't quite do that. What I have to do is publicly share this is available to everybody on campus that says, ‘this book is being removed in order to make place in the collection.’”

There are certain ways to retire books properly. “People are going to have an opportunity to have access to these, but I do not have the power, nor do I want the power to gift them to people - that isn't the nature of it,” Matz said. “This is a public institution. These are considered to be public property, and I have to be able to withdraw and de-accession them in a way that is legal and proper, but also fair.”

Due to the process the library must go through to withdraw these books, there are limited options for where they can be retired to. “So what we would do in a case like this is send out lists and we will, in the past, you know, with the reference books and in the bound journals, it was just faculty, I think with the books, we'll probably want to consider a wider scope for everybody at the university,” Matz said, “One, for transparency, say, ‘hey, we're doing this. We're not just throwing things away randomly.’ And two, we would like it better if you took these books home, or at least knew that you had a chance to.”

Matz also spoke about the book adoption process. “It'll probably be hundreds of pages of spreadsheets that are sortable and give you a sense of saying, ‘oh, these are things that are going in this round of withdrawals,’” Matz said. “‘Am I interested? Do I want to make a commitment?’ And then I can't get into too much detail about how that next piece will go because I don't know.”

The library staff hopes to hear more from students interested in the library with their student library advisory council. “I'm counting on that kind of relationship to let these students, as the advisory board kind of comes into more substance, to be ambassadors for the library,” Matz said. “It's just kind of ways to make the conversation bigger and more inclusive. We have several students that are involved in it. Our last meeting will be on Monday, May 9. All students are welcome.”

Matz expressed his view of the importance of feedback for the library. “I was charged to modernize, and I'm like, ‘okay, figure out where ASU is going. How does the library fit into that scheme?’” Matz said, “and then let the people who use it and depend on the library every day tell us what they need. What do you want to see represented in this re-imagined modern library? And if it means old standards, bang, we can do that. If it means super-snazzy new stuff, we can do that too.”

Angelo State University, Porter Henderson Library

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