Mabee a change is in order…

Renovations The Mabee is undergoing extensive reconstruction to better meet the needs of Washburn students. The reference and circulation stations are being combined, left, to make research easier. The main floor is now a more social scene, as is shown by the condensing the string of internet-only computers down to two work stations, right.

Robert Burkett

For most students, Mabee library is one of those common academic touchstones in a college career and things are changing among the stacks in a real way this semester.

The change for Mabee really starts with one man. Alan Bearman, dean of libraries and associate professor in the history department. He is a tower of a man, and a common sight for students visiting the library. Since assuming his new role as interim dean, Bearman has worked to move Mabee Library in a new direction for library services here at Washburn.

“It became quickly apparent in January of 2008 when I became interim dean of libraries that everyone, both students and faculty, were asking for a more user focused library,” said Bearman.

Indeed, the Mabee while a faithful servant to the public and the students of Washburn, was built and finished during the 1977-1978 school year. That means Mabee was designed and built in time when a gallon of gas cost 63 cents and computers were barely more than a specialist’s gadget.

To put it simply, a lot has changed in 30 years, but Mabee was still largely the same. The relics of the 1970s were going strong, but today they are giving way to the modern amenities of a new millennium.

Examples of this are seen in some of the new high tech equipment that the library has acquired over the last year. A new digital microfilm reader, a powerful book scanner and a new electronic classroom with open use laptops. In addition to these tools are the answer to the student desires to have laptops including Apple’s popular MacBooks available to check out and use while studying among the stacks of Mabee.

“We were simply responding to student needs and if we can, wants as well,” said Bearman, referring to the many changes that have been taking place thus far.

Mabee has also seen changes in the tools offered to students. Some databases that weren’t widely utilized by students have been dropped to spend budget dollars in a way that will benefit the most students. At the same time, Mabee has also cut its book budget by 50 percent in favor of spending more funds on electronic resources that students have gravitated to recently.

While the immediate changes have been noticeable, more extensive changes are on the horizon for Mabee that will change the face of library services at Washburn. Many students will notice that activity is already underway to create a more streamlined experience for library patrons. A large wooden floor area has been installed and work is proceeding to help simplify the library experience of those who are looking to get help pulling material from the vast resources available to students and faculty.

“Separate reference and circulation stations are really a relic of the 1970s,” said Bearman. “We went out and visited other universities to get an idea of how newer facilities were doing things and trying to incorporate some of those ideas.”

Beyond the technology and the setup of academic services, Mabee has also worked to brand itself as one of the welcome centers of Washburn. When most buildings close down in the afternoon and weekends, Mabee stands as one of the only services that is there seven days a week as a first interface with the community that surrounds Washburn as well as perspective students making their college choices.

One of the major changes to help in the welcoming center transformation has been the “zoning” of the building. New quiet areas for study provide distraction-free rooms. Several rooms have been set aside for group study on both the top and bottom level of the building. By providing these areas away from the first floor, Mabee’s first floor has become a more vibrant and social area where students can study, work on computers, print for free or simply sit around with friends watching one of the programs on the televisions spread around the main level. For the first time Mabee Library offers both comfortable lounging and exceptional learning.

Though not able to accomplish everything that they would like to this year, the staff at Mabee hopes to continue its work of updating the library. With proposed amenities like a coffee cart and other convenience items to make the library a one-stop study destination that will continue to attract students to Washburn for years to come.