More than books and media

UMKC Libraries implement cutting-edge programs, technology

In addition to offering books and other academic materials, UMKC Libraries provides a central gathering place that is at the heart of UMKC’s mission and student success. It implements and maintains world-class technology and programs to assist with research and teaching, enrich the community culturally and further UMKC’s mission.

Campus and Community Programming: African-American Read-In

Throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, UMKC Libraries produced approximately 20 original programs and hosted or co-sponsored a dozen more with attendance ranging from 15 to 150. Program topics included Special Collections highlights, and exploring and celebrating cultural diversity.

Held during Black History Month, the African-American Read-In was one of the Libraries’ most successful programs. It highlighted the cultural contributions of African-American authors, poets and songwriters.

At the Read-In, familiar names – James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Gordon Parks – mingled with those of Nalda Bàez, a Dominican Republic native whose poetry laments the loss of land and culture but celebrates the preservation of dignity; Samuel Floyd, writing about the hope still present in gospel songs of despair; and UMKC’s Tracey Hughes, Jasmine Powell, Keron Hopkins, Natasha Ria El-Scari and Mathew Forstater presented original works.

The read-in provided a performance venue for poets of passion, oral interpreters and dancers. Readers recounted the joys – as well as the difficulties – of African-American life. Percival Everett used his own experience as a black author criticized for not writing “black” enough to pen a parody of prestigious book awards and Oprah’s hold on the reading public.

“We knew we could do this. What we didn’t know was what people expected and what they would take away,” said librarian Gloria Tibbs. “It turned out to far exceed our expectations.”

The Book Robot

Once fully implemented, the UMKC Libraries' book robot will hold about 80 percent of the library's collection, creating space for student, researcher and community use.

Once fully implemented, the UMKC Libraries’ book robot will hold about 80 percent of the library’s collection, creating space for student, researcher and community use.

Perhaps the most visual clue of the library’s modernization can be found in the newly-constructed book robot. In mid-May, Paul Rudy – a Guggenheim Fellow, internationally-acclaimed composer and UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance professor – helped introduce UMKC Libraries’ four-story-tall book robot. Along with his collaborator, Conservatory doctoral student Scott Blasco, he also presented a commissioned art installation inspired by the book robot and the evolution of libraries. The installation is on display on the library’s third floor.

Once fully implemented, the book robot – also known as an automated high-density storage and retrieval system (ASRS) – will store approximately 80 percent of the library’s collection, creating space for UMKC campus and community use. Fewer than 20 other North American university libraries have incorporated similar technology.

“Right now the robot is a novelty, because it’s the only one like it in the region and is pretty amazing to watch,” said Sharon Bostick, Dean of UMKC Libraries. “The real importance of this project, however, is what comes next – what it allows us to do with the original library structure.”

New spaces will accommodate areas for individual and group study, collaborative learning and presentation space, as well as an expanded cafe. Though a significant portion of the collection will be stored in the retrieval system, approximately 200,000 items will remain on open shelving.

The robot’s manufacturer, HK Systems, produced a video to explain how the robot works.

Twenty-First-Century Service

In addition to implementing a robot, UMKC Libraries has created a significant new media presence, updating students via email, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and blogs. UMKC Libraries assists patrons via the following programs and new media platforms, as well:

  • Text a Librarian allows library users to text simple, quick questions. By starting text messages with “UMKC” and sending them to 66746, patrons will receive prompt answers during library hours. Text a Librarian is private and secure, and wireless numbers are kept confidential. Standard wireless provider text rates apply.
  • RooBooks offers UMKC faculty and staff the opportunity to request that their library books be sent to their Volker campus addresses. Books may be requested from Miller Nichols Library or any MERLIN or MOBIUS library.
  • RooSearch offers patrons a sophisticated search engine for identifying and locating library materials.
  • Interlibrary Loan allows library users to utilize books, journal articles and other resources not held by UMKC. This extends the Libraries’ resources to include items from public and academic libraries from around the world.

While technology advances and additions of programs may strengthen peoples’ visits, the library’s commitment to strong service and student success remains.

“From our expert librarians, to our enhanced facilities, to our dynamic online presence, UMKC libraries are committed to bringing people and information together,” said Bostick.

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