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The Expanding Role of the
Drew University Library

March 21, 2007

Table of Contents

  1. The Library as Place
  2. The Library as a Dynamic Continuum of Resources
  3. The Library as a Teaching Institution
  4. The Library as a Discriminating Consumer of Technology
  5. The Library as a Steward of Distinctive Collections
  6. The Library as the Place to Celebrate Scholarship
  7. Projects for the Comprehensive Campaign


President Weisbuch asked the Library to think boldly about the future of the Library and create a visionary planning document to shape the direction of the Library for the next decade. This report is a distillation of the spirited conversations held over the past year.

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The Drew University Library has a distinguished history in the service of the students and faculty of the University. Its mission is to provide access to trustworthy, authoritative knowledge and to provide services that directly support teaching, scholarship, and independent learning in each of the three schools. In fulfilling this mission the Library must renew itself as a:

In short, the Library sees itself as the intellectual crossroads of the University and is eager to expand that role. If the vitality of the Library is to be maintained, let alone expanded, the Drew community needs to invest mightily in the Library's future. This report highlights recent accomplishments as well as the commitments we seek from the Drew community.


The Drew University Library is often compared to those of the Oberlin Group, an elite group of eighty national liberal arts colleges, of which Drew is a member. Yet, only three of them have doctoral programs (Bryn Mawr, Wesleyan, and Middlebury), only one has a theological school (University of the South), and none has both. Drew occupies a unique niche and that distinctiveness shapes the work of the Library. Collections and services are developed to support the specific needs of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.

The greatest single influence on the Library over the past decade has been the impact of digital technology. It suffuses every aspect of how the Drew Library does business. It is reshaping collections and services, and it is changing the DNA of the Library's users. Consider these telling facts:

The principal entry point to the Library's resources and services is now through the Library's Web site.

In short, the Library has become a virtual destination with unlimited hours as well as a geographic destination with limited hours.

While it is futile to predict the future with any precision, it is a safe to suppose that the digital revolution is still in its infancy. Yet even in the Google era, the Library serves at once as the home of and portal to the world of scholarship for the Drew community. As such, the Library has a distinctive role as a physical location that has not been fully realized.


The Library as Place

The three buildings that comprise the Library complex – the Rose Library, the Learning Center , and the Methodist Center – provide space for study and collaboration, collections, and services. However, they have not been shaped as optimal learning environments.

Too many library buildings unwittingly reflect an era when educational pedagogy and a nineteenth century sense of decorum dictated spaces where students largely studied alone in uncomfortable chairs in quiet room and alcoves, bereft of the comforts of food, beverage, music, and conversation that would otherwise be readily available in the dorm or at home. The care of books was given priority over the nurturing of young scholars. Such constraints are no longer acceptable in the academic library of the twenty-first century. The successful venture of Barnes & Noble Bookstores with Starbucks Coffee offers important cultural clues to connections that should be exploited in the university library. Increasingly, areas once unthinkable in libraries are being created in libraries to help them flourish as campus centers for scholarly exploration.

Not surprisingly, colleges and universities that have completed major renovations, expansions, and new buildings report that student use of the library increased dramatically. Attractive, comfortable, flexible facilities promote scholarship. Churchill was right when he observed, “First we erect our buildings and then they shape us.”


While the Drew collections and services are strong and competitive and the exterior look of the buildings is attractive, the interiors communicate a contrary message – these spaces have not been well cared for nor have they kept up with the times. Consider:

The Library must be a much more welcoming place, sensitive to the needs of students and to the environmental elements that promote intellectual activities. It must be an inviting place, a “great good place” – in short, a place worthy of our collections, our services, and our students. (2) To that end:

Recommended Short-Term Projects

Recommended Longer-Term Project


The Library as a Dynamic Continuum of Resources

The explosive expansion of electronic databases and texts, as well as global interconnectivity, may be the greatest change in learning since collections of books replaced oral traditions. Many librarians were amazed to see the use of libraries jump dramatically after the displacement of the card catalog by the electronic catalog and the addition of online abstracting and indexing services. Few understood that the card catalog and paper indexes had been formidable barriers to the collections for many students. Now electronic resources are trumping paper when it comes to journal literature. And the new publications of the U.S. Government are now almost exclusively digital.

What then of the book? Despite prognostications in the popular press, the book is flourishing and will continue to have its distinctive and distinguished niche in the pantheon of knowledge. Much authenticated scholarship is still published on paper; nevertheless, the size of the average print runs of academic book publishers has decreased. Google's massive digitization of the book collections of major research libraries will certainly have ramifications for us, but in yet undetermined ways. If faculty in the humanities and many areas of the social sciences were told that the Library would no longer be investing in books in their areas and that they were to depend exclusively on electronic resources, they would have proof certain that the Library did not understand the primary modes of scholarly communication in their areas.

Clearly, the variety of resource formats is rapidly expanding. In this dynamic environment the library's role is not to be a professional lobbyist for any single type of information and knowledge, whether print or digital. Its mission is to provide the resources that its constituencies require, regardless of format. That mixture is different for each area of scholarly inquiry and is constantly shifting.


Recommended Projects


The Library as a Teaching Institution

The Drew Library takes a dim view of stockpiling books, journals, media and electronic texts as an end in itself. Resources that languish on shelves or in databases do not contribute to a student's education. Our students must become highly skilled in determining pertinent resources for their assignments. Knowledge of the structures of scholarly communication and their cognate technologies is essential to academic success and is the badge of the lifelong learner. (3)The eruption of digital resources has complicated the task of searching for authenticated scholarship rather than simplified it.

The goal of the Library's instructional program is to assist students in forming an “intellectual framework for identifying, finding, understanding, evaluating, and using information.” (4) A library research component is built into each First Year Seminar as well as into each section of English 2. These sessions are taught by the Library faculty. An elective course in research methods for theological students is taught by the Theological Librarian. In addition, course-integrated instruction continues to grow throughout the curricula of the three schools. The total classes taught last year increased 15% over the total for 2004-05 with 82 sections taught in 121 sessions. Most sessions included the development of a Web page tailored to the course.

Recent Steps

Recommended Projects


The Library as a Discriminating Consumer of Technology

The Library strives to be a discriminating user of technology, always asking if a technological option significantly increases student access to valuable resources and services. Despite its inherent allure, the Library sees information technology as a tool for dramatically enhancing scholarship, not as a goal in and of itself. (5) 

Sometimes visitors to campus fail to see the Library and the campus as a whole as technologically advanced. This is in large measure because the campus is a laptop environment, hence the absence of the impressive banks of computers in the library and in labs that is typical of many other universities.

The past five years have seen steady technological advances in the Library. Recent improvements include:

The Library's vision and needs have always reached far ahead of its means. With the recent advances in partnership with Computer Network Services, the Library has kept reasonable pace with current technological developments. A number of bold initiatives would build on our gains and deepen the academic resources of the community. All of them are dependent upon the continuing ability of CNS to support technological innovation.

Recommended Projects


The Library as a Steward of Distinctive Collections

The Drew Library houses a rich range of special collections and archives. They encompass the world-renowned Methodist collections, the celebrated Willa Cather collections, the Governor Thomas H. Kean Archive, the Walt Whitman collection, the Chesler Collection of Cartoon Art and Graphic Satire, the Haberly Collection on the Book Arts, the Georges Simenon collection, the archives of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Drew University Archives, and many more. While Drew has many more special collections than many universities of similar size, that is not Drew's mark of true distinction.

What truly sets Drew apart from many libraries is its insistence that special material be used – and used by student and scholar alike. The use of primary source material can be an educationally transforming experience. Increasingly, college classes, not just doctoral students and visiting scholars, are using these collections. Drew is also identifying scholars whose work would benefit from a visit to campus to mine recent acquisitions. Such was the case with the Cather collections; a major colloquium in October 2005 brought twenty scholars together to present papers based on their research of the Drew collections. A volume of that scholarship will be published by FDU Press this year.

As recommended by the Library of Congress, the Library is creating collection-level cataloging records that describe entire collections, so that students and scholars searching the Web will be led to the special material at Drew. (6) Finding Aids for these collections are also placed on the Library's Web site. The Library has begun to digitize some of the special collections, as well as its special exhibits, and to participate in cooperative national and international projects that interlink subject densities of unique material. An NEH-funded Preservation Needs Assessment was recently conducted, and a comprehensive long-range plan to preserve these collections is being drafted.


Recommended Short-term Projects

Recommended Longer-term Projects


The Library as the Place to Celebrate Scholarship

The Library is strategically located between the residential and classroom buildings of the campus. It is the academic place where students and faculty of the three schools regularly intersect. The coming of the café to the main lobby will increase the opportunity for people to informally gather and exchange ideas. The Library should also take an enlarged programmatic role in the promotion and celebration of campus scholarship in partnership with the provost and the faculties.

Recent Steps

Recommended Short-term Projects

Recommended Longer-term Project


Projects for the Comprehensive Campaign

The imminent comprehensive campaign of the University is an opportune time to fund several of the major initiatives outlined in this report. We would especially recommend:

  1. Redesigning the main floor of the Learning Center
  2. Establishing an endowment for a Special Collections Librarian
  3. Creating a centralized place for special collections


The Library as the Intellectual Crossroads

of the University

The Library sits on a major intersection of the campus. The users of the Library come through the physical doors and they come through the virtual doors. It is the place where students and faculty from the three schools come to garner resources, secure assistance in their research, and collaborate with other learners. It is a place of intellectual exploration and discovery aided by talented librarians and the magical efficiencies of technology. It is a place where books, media, electronic resources, special collections, and archives are brought together as distinctive, coherent collections in support of the programs of the three schools. It is a place where technology expands the range of available scholarship and frees it from a single location. It is a place where students and faculty meet and celebrate the scholarship of the University.

The Library is eager to enlarge its contribution to the intellectual life of the campus.

Implementing the recommendations of this report will ensure academic vitality, excitement, and intensity at the intellectual crossroads of Drew University .



End Notes

See attachment #4.

Ray Oldenburg, The Great Good Place (New York: Paragon Press, 1989).

Andrew D. Scrimgeour, “More Than Books, Bricks, and Bytes: The Role of the Library at a Small University , Visions: Newsletter of the Drew University Library , Issue No. 9 (Winter 2001), pp. 4-5.

Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education: Eligibility Requirements and Standards for Accreditation, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 2002.

Stanley N. Katz, “In Information Technology, Don't Mistake a Tool for a Goal,” The Chronicle of Higher Education , June 15, 2001, p. B7-B9.

“Exposing Hidden Collections,” a conference at the Library of Congress, September 8-9, 2003.