The True University
A History of the Western Washington University Library1899-1998
By Marian Alexander
On September 30, 1994, Mrs. Parker stepped down as director of libraries and accepted a special assignment with Academic Technology & User Services (ATUS) to participate in the External Information Resources Development Project. She returned to the library in 1996 and later became collection development coordinator.
Provost DeLorme appointed Marian Alexander to serve as acting director and acting university records officer effective October 19, 1994. A member of the library faculty since 1970, Alexander held a B. A. from Occidental College and a M. L. S. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and had served most recently as head of technical service following appointments as serials librarian and head of cataloging.
In October 1994, Provost DeLorme appointed a special Task Force on the Future of the Libraries to inform the search for a permanent University librarian, as the position was now to be called, by defining the challenges facing the library in the next ten years. The Task Force report of December 12, 1994, emphasized the need for the library to effectively assimilate and anticipate technological developments, integrate into the undergraduate curriculum, and meet the needs of diverse uses. In particular, the Task Force noted the need for the library "to develop a mission statement and strategic plan that meshes with that of the University."
The library information system and the Western Card
As the search progressed, the most urgent task before acting director Alexander was to fully implement the library information system by the target date of opening day, fall quarter 1995. This complex undertaking was accomplished in a series of closely coordinated stages involving all components of the library’s operations as well as all of its personnel. Throughout the fall of 1994, essential database preparation work proceeded, culminating in the merger of electronic catalog records accumulated in three separate bibliographic utilities, OCLC, RLIN, and WLN. Extensive electrical and telecommunications upgrades throughout the building continued, and the first group of computers to support the system was installed in December.
In January 1995, the test version of the new computerized catalog went online. Barcoding of the collections began in January and culminated on June 16, with a full day of barcoding by the staff of all the material remaining on the library’s shelves that had not yet been barcoded. In February 1995, computers were installed in staff areas and during March-April public access workstations were set up in reference areas throughout the library. In April, the library’s cataloging operations switched over to the Innovative Interfaces cataloging module, and in June 1995, computers replaced the main card catalog on the first floor of Wilson Library. The catalog begun by Mabel Zoe Wilson in 1902 and by now containing almost 3 million cards, was retired to storage and the cabinets, still containing their cards, were later sold.
By early summer 1995, circulation functions were operational and online catalog users could see instantly updated information about circulation transactions. By mid-June, the online catalog database was complete and by fall it included on-order information about new purchases and information about subscription titles. Implementation of the full array of system components continued, including modules for management of reserves, serials operations, and acquisitions, along with intensive staff training. Network and dial-up access to the library information system began in September 1995.
By the target date, thirty-seven public access computers were available in Wilson Library and the Music Library, and over fifty computers had been installed to support operations and services including acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, reserve, and reference. On October 5, 1995, the University held a reception and open house in Wilson Library to officially celebrate the successful, on-time implementation of its first online, integrated library information system.
Simultaneous with development of the library information system, the University launched the Western Card Program. Since 1967, when the library installed its IBM-based circulation system, the separate card required to borrow library materials had become the de facto campus ID card. Other cards developed, however, for services such as housing and dining and prepaid copying. The Western Card plan, which involved library personnel starting in 1993, aimed to create a single, multi-purpose, official identification and transaction card for students, faculty, and staff to replace the existing library card and all other cards.
Introduced in July 1995, the Western Card, with photo-ID, encodable data stripes, and barcode for library use, severed at long last the library’s sole remaining link with the punched-card technology of the 1960s. The library also introduced a new barcoded courtesy/community card for persons and groups affiliated with the University and for individuals paying an annual fee for borrowing privileges.
Upgrading the old, designing the new
In addition to modifications needed to implement the library information system, the Western Card, and Cooperative Library Project, other facilities projects continued in the library throughout 1994/95. The historic north door of Wilson Library, closed as the result of a budget reduction in 1989, was re-opened in April 1995 following installation of a new security system. Library users could once more experience the historic, wrought iron outer entry doors, designed by Homer Mathes, son of the institution’s first president.
The asbestos abatement and electrical upgrade project begun in June 1993 resulted in a number of improvements completed during 1994/95, including fresh paint, new carpets, seismic upgrades, and a new smoke detector-fire alarm system. A single drawback of the two-year project was the modest decrease in total shelving capacity caused by the widening of some aisles between bookstacks to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, some lesser-used material, including the remaining collections of science, technology, and law books still in the Dewey Decimal classification, were stored in the University’s commissary building.
One of the project’s most welcome benefits was the installation of new lighting in some of the older areas of the building, including the north door foyer. In the summer of 1995, Paul Thiry’s 1960s fluorescent grid came down from the ceiling of the historic main reading room, replaced by suspended fixtures more in keeping with the room’s period atmosphere. Shelf lighting was also installed and the long oak study tables, in place since 1928, gained the tabletop study lights first contemplated in 1947.
Throughout 1994/95, the planning process for expansion of the library into nearby Haggard Hall continued. In October 1994, a second BEST Value Engineering study conducted by the state’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) supported consolidation of library space on the second and third floors and the need for a connective element joining Haggard Hall with Wilson Library at the second rather than ground level. On December 1, 1994, the Board of Trustees was informed that on the basis of the BEST Study recommendations, OFM would support an increase in the University’s funding request from $17,800,00 to $22,200,000. Construction funds were obtained in the University’s 1995/97 biennial budget.
The ZGF/Leighton final programming report of July 7, 1995 detailed the layout of library space within Haggard Hall and in the area where it would join the existing library building. A key feature of the recommended configuration was the grouping on the same level of essential services, including reference and circulation, near the two ends of the connector. In fall 1995, the design development phase began, during which several changes were made following consultation with the Board of Trustees, including reducing the width of the connective element, increasing the width of the walkway between the buildings at ground level, and placement of the main entry stair in Haggard Hall space. On February 9, 1996, the Board was informed that construction would proceed in two phases. Hazardous materials abatement and interior demolition would first take place within Haggard Hall, followed by renovation and construction of the connector to Wilson Library.
Wilson Library too was the focus of an intense planning effort that began during 1995/96. After the upcoming expansion, Wilson would continue to house collections and services not accommodated in Haggard Hall, but the major renovations of 1961/62 and 1970/72 had seriously fragmented the building’s interior spaces. ZGF was retained to prepare the pre-design report for a renovation of Wilson Library which, the Board instructed on April 13, 1995, should "create a unified library concept in Haggard Hall and Wilson Library." The report, completed in July 1996 with extensive input from library personnel, recommended a streamlined arrangement of spaces for departments and collections in Wilson Library specifically organized to complement and work efficiently with the proposed array of services and resources in Haggard Hall.
The Wilson Library pre-design also included a badly needed storage area for music materials. Since its beginnings as a departmental collection in the 1950s, the Music Library had grown rapidly, especially following the appointment in 1969 of Western’s first music librarian, Marian Ritter. By the mid-1990s, the cataloged collections included over 20,000 scores, 10,000 books about music, 10,000 LP records, 4,500 compact discs, and large collections of video recordings, audiocassettes, music education materials, and unprocessed materials of all kinds acquired principally through donation. An active Friends of the Music Library group founded in 1988 provided support for acquisitions and services, organized events, and facilitated gifts to the library.
Successive reviews by accrediting bodies had consistently echoed the 1984 assessment by the National Association of Schools of Music that found Western’s music library "one of the best Music Library operations … observed at any comparable institution." In April 1998, music librarian Marian Ritter received a Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award in recognition of the music library’s services to the local cultural and music education communities.
Resource and organizational development
As planning for the various facilities expansion projects continued throughout 1995/96, development of electronic resources in the library accelerated. In early 1996, the library information system expanded to include a range of online databases in addition to the library’s catalog. The library discontinued the Local Area Network established in 1993 to support multiple-user access to selected databases from computers in the library. In its place, a mix of networked online delivery methods was implemented, including Internet, networked CD-ROMs, and a UNIX server, accessing a selection of databases geared to broad curricular areas. Academic Technology & User Services (ATUS) and library personnel developed the library network access program in versions for Windows, DOS, and Macintosh to facilitate access to all networked LIS resources from workstations anywhere on campus. In the technical services area, the library switched to the OCLC bibliographic utility in June 1996, after more than a decade of RLIN participation.
During the summer of 1996, several facilities and service enhancement projects took place. In the Music Library, shelving was added in an effort to meet growth needs until completion of the planned storage area in the renovated Wilson Library. In Wilson Library, the loan desk was relocated to the central area of the first floor in preparation for the closing of the library’s south entrance during the Haggard Hall renovation, expected to begin in early 1997. At the same time, remodeling of the reserve room permitted early adoption of the "self-serve reserve" concept, planned for implementation in Haggard Hall, allowing users to retrieve reserve materials themselves from open shelves, rather than having to request them at a service desk.
In July 1996, the access services area began a new personal service program for faculty, created by access services head Donna Packer. This permitted University faculty to send citations for needed material directly by phone, mail, e-mail, or using the library’s new Web page created by science/technology librarian Peter Smith. Requested items available in the library’s collections were personally delivered to the faculty member’s office by library staff, who also retrieved materials ready to be returned. Interlibrary loan requests were automatically generated for items not held locally.
Organizationally, the most substantial revision to take place in mid-1996 was the unification of the library’s three separate reference service units into one unit on the first floor of Wilson Library. In establishing a unified reference area, the library achieved a cohesive reference collection and a single reference service point for the first time in nearly four decades. The merger eliminated the separate education reference unit and collection, in existence since the 1960s, and the science/technology reference unit and collection created in 1988. It also modeled the future in Haggard Hall, where a single reference service desk was planned. As part of the project, the government documents collections and service area, which had occupied the east end of the first floor since 1988, relocated to more expansive quarters on the west end of the second floor, former home of the education collections.
The Cooperative Library Project
At the state level, acting director Alexander continued to work with her fellow directors to obtain additional funding for the Council of President’s Cooperative Library Project (CLP). In the legislature’s 1995 supplemental budget, the Project received $3.2 million to establish the electronic infrastructure at each member-institution’s library and to support more efficient resource sharing. Western did not receive a substantial amount from this appropriation as it had previously committed its own funds to development of the library information system. However, the amount it did receive permitted purchase of the Ariel electronic document transmission system for sending and receiving scanned documents over the Internet, considerably enhancing interlibrary loan operations starting in October 1995.
Western had made a singular contribution to the Cooperative Library Project effort in 1994 when its negotiating team set the standard in the state for best price for the Innovative Interfaces integrated system product. This precedent allowed Western’s Cooperative Library Project partners to purchase Innovative systems for their sites at very favorable prices in 1995, thus ensuring a common integrated library system at all Project institutions as the basis for future cooperative database ventures.
Following a successful proposal in early 1996, the Cooperative Library Project received $5.2 million in that year’s supplemental budget, including nearly $900,000 for Western’s immediate priorities and substantial ongoing funds to support initiatives related to the CLP goals. The library was able to purchase additional software for the library information system, including World Wide Web capabilities, as well as equipment to enhance resource sharing, such as digitizing text and microform scanners.
Large numbers of electronic bibliographic records for collections such as government documents and major microform sets were acquired for loading into the online catalog, in order to provide more complete information about Western’s holdings to its Project partners. Contract cataloging services purchased for substantial accumulations of special materials enabled Western to include records in its online catalog for many uniquely held titles in special areas such as Asian languages and music. The allocation of ongoing funds enabled the library to add staff positions to support operations of value to the Cooperative Library Project, including interlibrary loan and cataloging.
By the end of 1995/96, the library’s collections included over 620,000 volumes, a government publications collection of nearly similar size, close to 3 million microforms, and rapidly growing numbers of music scores, recordings, compact discs, videos, electronic resources, and other non-book materials. The overall staff had declined to thirty-eight permanent support staff and ten library faculty including the acting director. In April 1995, the library staff formed its first staff organization since 1982. The library staff council, whose members were elected by the classified staff in all operational areas, organized informational meetings on budget and personnel issues, conducted opinion surveys on such issues as flexible work time, and met quarterly with the acting director to discuss staff concerns.
The library’s external relations effort now included the twice-yearly newsletter Imprint, begun in 1988, and LIP Chat: Library Integration Project Newsletter, started in 1995 by assistant to the library director Rick Osen to provide information to the campus about the upcoming Haggard Hall renovation. In the spring of 1996, the library was able to offer the first awards from the $100,000 Herbert R. and Laura Beth Hearsey Scholarship Endowment, created the previous year by former associate director Herbert R. Hearsey and his wife to provide scholarships for student employees of the library.