May 4, 2012

Construction of Joint Texas A&M-UT System Library Facility To Begin In June

Construction of a facility to preserve library resources of Texas A&M University and The University of Texas System is set to begin in June near Bryan, Texas, following formal approval of a $6.3 million appropriation for the project. The facility is designed to house about 1 million books and make them available to scholars and other interested parties upon request.

The 18,000-square-foot library facility will be constructed at Texas A&M’s Riverside Campus, the former Bryan Air Force Base that the university uses for a variety of research and training endeavors.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents authorized the construction expenditure at its meeting Friday upon the recommendation of Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin. The regents had previously approved a $700,000 allocation for planning and other expenses related to the project.

Officials explained the new facility, scheduled to be completed by March of 2013, will help alleviate pressures for space as the libraries continue to add volumes and related resources.

artist's rendering of the joint library facility

Construction of a facility to preserve library resources of Texas A&M University and The University of Texas System is set to begin in June

“This is an excellent example of cooperation between Texas A&M and the University of Texas for the benefit of our students and faculties and, potentially other scholars and researchers,” Loftin stated, “and it’s ultimately of cost-saving benefit to the taxpayers of Texas.”

“Many of the books are kept for research purposes and are infrequently used,” officials noted in the funding proposal submitted to the regents. “Adding stack space on campus is very expensive and not necessarily a wise use of university land or monies. The idea of creating a joint use library storage facility is a viable solution.”

Following the completion of a jointly funded, high-density library storage facility at The University of Texas at Austin’s J. J. Pickle Research Campus, the two institutions announced plans in 2010 for construction of the facility at Texas A&M’s Riverside Campus to house low-circulation books and older journal volumes that can be recalled when needed. Many of the hard-copy volumes are being held with the expectation of future conversion to digital files. Volumes stored at the Pickle Research Campus require more rigid environmental control than will be necessary for those to be preserved at the Riverside Campus, officials note.

Texas A&M and the UT System have agreed to share the expense of constructing the new facility, officials note, adding that Texas A&M University Libraries will provide staffing.

“In an era of unprecedented budget cuts to higher education, we must pool our resources and work together for the good of Texans, especially those with students attending our universities. This joint library storage facility allows us to do that. We are grateful to The University of Texas System for its foresight in supporting this initiative and unique collaboration,” Loftin said at the time of the initial announcement.

To further streamline collections, a novel process is being implemented through which the institutions can “share” a single copy of duplicated holdings in storage, librarians noted. This allows for the elimination of redundancy in individual collections while preserving a collective copy that can be recalled for use in research and study among users at multiple institutions.

The efforts to jointly implement new approaches to preservation aren’t limited to physical resources. For example, a partnership between Texas A&M and The University of Texas at Austin resulted in the establishment of the Texas Digital Library, an online repository for electronic theses and dissertations. That collaboration now includes more than a dozen regional members, among them several schools from the University of Texas and Texas A&M Systems.

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Media contact: Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services at (979) 845-4662

 

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6 Comments to Construction of Joint Texas A&M-UT System Library Facility To Begin In June

  1. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just digitize these books, and pay whatever royalty is required to deal with the in-copyright book problem? Building, and running, this facility for the next hundred years seems like a very expensive proposition, rather than maintaining a 1M e-book server.

  2. Wayne Martin on May 8th, 2012
  3. Digitizing the books is not as simple or cheap as it sounds. Complying with copyright law would be both difficult and expensive for anything not in the public domain (i.e. most books published since 1923) – see Peter Hirtle’s chart on figuring out how to tell if something is in public domain at http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm. Then there is obsolescence (file formats, hardware, software) which necessitates monitoring and migrating files, etc. Maintaining accessible, authentic digital versions of books perpetually is very expensive. Print books, on the other hand, require very little outside of physical storage; we can easily read print items published hundreds of years ago. Have you tried reading a Wordstar file lately?

  4. Cheryl Walters on May 10th, 2012
  5. Good for you, Cheryl! We will never outgrow our need for hard copies of books and serials that, as you point out, will withstand the ravages of time and changes in technology. Many early films self-destructed, but in some cases we at least have print descriptions, reviews, and screenplays to let us know what we’ve lost. Archival libraries, especially when shared among institutions, are a cost-efficient way of maintaining our invaluable print resources and keeping them available for the unforeseen and unpredictable requirements of future scholars. Who knows what gets left out when a book is digitized?

  6. Dennis Berthold on May 11th, 2012
  7. How many students actually get to ever visit the riverside campus in their whole college career? I know 99% of UT students won’t, and most A&M students will never. Cheryl and Dennis sound like they are librarians because you would be the only people that think that the cost of maintaing, operating and staffing one of these facilities is negligible. Its not. Im not sure if electronic files are the way to go but i can guarantee you the only thing that is obsolete is an actual library. How many people are buying iPad and Kindle type reading tablets these days? Everyone. Therefore I can only conclude that an 18,000 square foot building is not the answer but rather a temporary storage facility until a better plan is thought up.

  8. Carey on May 13th, 2012
  9. Not everyone is buying iPads or Kindles. Some of us actually prefer to read words printed on paper rather than on a computer screen. This facility would provide resources for how many tens of thousands of students and faculty members? Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

  10. Gary on May 15th, 2012
  11. As a student of A&M, I conducted a research project this past semester that required I reference books, letters, and various other documents on hold at one of the libraries on the UT campus. When I contacted them to see if the materials could be converted to an e-format, I was told that it would take at least eight weeks. Because I didn’t have eight weeks to wait, I made trips to and from Austin to get my work done. In the end, I learned so much more from the documents themselves, the smell, the feel, the little dent in the lower left corner on almost every letter, than I ever would have thought. From this and other similar experiences, I believe this library will be a benefit to many for years to come. I do not expect those who have not had the pleasure of conducting true research to understand, but I do hope that it does not become a lost art.

  12. Jilliann Jean on May 16th, 2012
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