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Lila Bunch library’s identity crisis

Your professor hands out a hefty research assignment – you read over the prompt a few times, brainstorm a little bit and then head to the library to spend hours in the stacks, right? Maybe not.

It may not be surprising to hear that most students’ research isn’t pulled from the shelves of libraries anymore, but what purpose does the library serve if students aren’t relying on books?

Like the rest of Belmont, Lila D. Bunch Library is changing – it may not be getting renovated or rebuilt anytime soon, but the identity of the library is constantly under construction to fit student and faculty needs.

For Susan Mazsaros, unit head of systems and management at Bunch library, meeting those needs means funding technology.

“In terms of our acquisitions budget, I want to say two-thirds of it goes to technological resources,” Mazsaros said.

“The evolution of print resources has gotten less and less over the years, I’ve been here four years and I’ve definitely seen it go down during the time I’ve been here,”

With the rising popularity of technological resources, difficult questions about place and identity face university libraries.

“Traditionally the library has been a storehouse of books, and we’re waiting for you to come in and use these materials that we have selected, and it’s just not that way now,” Mazsaros said.

Courtney Fuson, head of electronic and education resources at Bunch library, says that libraries are beginning to serve a different purpose.

“The majority of folks I know that work in academic libraries tend to feel that the library is shifting to place – a space where students come to study,” Fuson said.

“I think providing that space is where we’re headed, but I don’t think the library will ever be just a building.”

Belmont senior Matthew Pritchett says that he uses the library as a space for studying rather than as a resource.

“It’s become less a place of research and more serene in some ways, because you go there for quiet or you go there to get crap done and maybe sometimes you go there to find a book,” Pritchett said.

Mazsaros and Fuson agree that print resources, though less popular in the modern university setting, will never be completely abandoned.

“We still buy print materials, because there are things that just won’t be available online, and there are disciplines where that’s the preferred medium,” Mazsaros said.

Belmont junior Drew Miller says he prefers researching with books instead of technology.

“I would enjoy research more with a big stack of books. Having a billion tabs open on my computer is not nearly as satisfying as knowing, this stack of books right here, I will conquer this,” Miller said.

Dr. Earnest Heard, head of Bunch library, says that Belmont’s library serves students through print and electronic resources and also offers the place aspect of the modern library.

“Still, there is a need for print resources, as well as electronic resources. Still there is a need, a place for students to study and research together, and that’ what the library is for,” Heard said,

Like her co-workers, Fuson emphasizes that the library is dedicated to serving Belmont students and faculty.

“We all work really closely toward what’s going to best benefit the students,” Fuson said.

“There are lots of things we would love to be able to do with the building and for the students that we just aren’t able to at this point.”

Heard says he hopes for a new library space in the future, but until then the faculty will work with their existing resources to develop Bunch library and its role in the university.

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