Houston Cole Library begins second floor renovations, sparking some student criticism

Houston Cole Library, pictured, is undergoing renovations to make way for a Student Success Center. (Grace Cockrell/JSU)Houston Cole Library, pictured, is undergoing renovations to make way for a Student Success Center. (Grace Cockrell/JSU)

Coley Birchfield, Correspondent

Houston Cole Library’s second floor is undergoing renovations in an effort to expand student success.

Tim King, JSU’s vice president for student success, and his staff are preparing to transform the basement, lobby and second floor of the library into a Student Success Center and establish a separate space for athlete academic support.

“JSU is the only university in the OVC that doesn’t have a department like that in place,” said King referring to the athlete academic support.

Most bookshelves are disassembled or empty, chairs formerly filled with studying students are vacant and empty filing cabinets are arranged for relocation. These changes, however, were not brought to the public’s attention until a Facebook post surfaced last week of a dumpster outside of the library filled with books.

“They are making room to put offices in our library and instead of donating the books in the floors they’re clearing they are straight up throwing them in a dumpster,” said Kenli Doss, a JSU student, in a post to social media.

Patrick Yim, a JSU alumnus, said that after he heard about the books being thrown away, he decided to investigate.

“When we arrived, I checked around and saw some signs about the dumpster, but assumed it would be OK to save some since the library was being forced to trash them,” said Yim.

Several books were tossed into a dumpster outside of Houston Cole Library. (Courtesy of Dylan Curvin)

Yim said that there had to have been at least 1,000 books, as the “mega dumpster was over half full.”

“A UPD officer showed up and made us stop,” said Yim. “He proceeded to tell us that JSU had yet to determine what they were doing with the books, and that the public was not permitted to have them.”

John Upchurch, the head of public services for Houston Cole Library, said that all of the books from the second floor are accounted for.

“A good part of our bound periodical collection is now in storage at Fort McClellan,” said Upchurch. “It can still be accessible via an article request form on the Library homepage.” 

Some students also raised concerns about materials considered religious being among the books being removed from the library. Upchurch denied the claim, saying that there are “no plans to remove said material from the collection.” He explained that they will be relocated to the sixth floor. Students can also expect new signage around the library regarding the relocation of topics like library science, psychology and philosophy.

Several bookshelves on the 2nd floor of Houston Cole Library have been emptied as the space is being repurposed to house a Student Success Center. (Coley Birchfield/The Chanticleer)

“The library had to make space to accommodate these plans, which required that parts of the collection move to new spaces within the building,” said Upchurch.

The Student Success Center, also known as The Department of Academic Enhancement and Tutoring Services, provides resources such as student tutors and study resources that are available on their website. The center also is planning on expanding their work with student athletes. Student-athletes would be able to utilize tutoring services and study space to coincide with their unique schedules.

Some other universities have implemented similar projects, such as Ohio State University, Clemson University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of Dayton.

King said that Don Killingsworth, JSU’s president, reached out to him with the idea in October. King also said that he was excited to take on the opportunity because “libraries have always been a constant aspect” of his life. He recalled being at a library while at the University of Alabama “until they were closed or football came on”.

Asked why the library was chosen as the location of this project, he referred to an article from Inside Higher ED published last September, which “found that students see libraries as a valuable space for services, including non-academic services.” He also said that buildings such as Daugette Hall and the Theron Montgomery Building do not have room for expansion.

The Student Success Center project is expected to be finished in December. King described the project as “fancy but cheap,” and said he wants to ensure people that the project doesn’t come with an outrageous multi-million dollar price tag.

He said Killingsworth and himself are “caring for the success of all students, not just some students”. 

Many other departments at JSU will relocate to the library when renovations are complete, including the Academic Center for Excellence, testing services and most advisors.

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