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CCU Atheneum: Kimbel Library stays busy, serving nearly 9,000 students.
Kimbel Library stays busy, serving nearly 9,000 students.

CCU is growing, but is our library ready?

by Brian Druckenmiller
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In the Fall 2001 semester, full-time enrollment was at 4,487 students. A decade later, Coastal Carolina University has  grown to 8,720 students, nearly doubling the size of our student body (and that does not include part-time students). One thing that has remained constant during this period is Kimbel Library’s seating capacity.

“We have seen our gate count up at least 20 percent over last year,” said Barbara Burd, dean of library services at Coastal Carolina University. “That’s pretty huge.”

Burd accepted her current position in May 2008, and since then has made great strides to accommodate the  needs of a growing student body.

First, the extended weekday hours—24 hours a day from Monday through Friday—provide more opportunities for students to use the library’s resources. In fact, the popularity of the extended hours has exceeded expectations, with occasionally more than 100 students during the overnight hours. During finals week, students pulling all-nighters are treated to complimentary coffee and snacks.

“We try to create the right environment for students to study,” said Burd.

Second, the library offers a wide variety of items to be checked out. In addition to lap tops (including the option between Macs and PCs), the library now offers digital cameras, video recorders, voice recorders, iPads and mini USB drives.

“Not every student has these things,” said Burd, “but some assignments require them. Thus far, these additions have been very successful.” This service also gives students the chance to ‘try before they buy’—why spend hundreds on a tablet without testing it out? Having iPads available can save students a great deal of money, or prevent them from making a possible mistake, according to Burd.

Third, a “pilot” program for a library research course worth 1 academic credit debuted this semester. The course was attached to numerous English 101 sections. For one hour a week, students learned proper research techniques—everything from choosing a topic to perusing online databases and other resources.

“It’s something our students need,” said Burd. “It shows students what’s available here and how to go about using it.”

While all of these additions certainly improve the library’s capabilities and enhance the students’ experience, is it enough?

“I have the best staff in the world,” said Burd. “Everyone is extremely committed to the success of the students. However, we cannot keep up with the demands of our students.”

While the student population is growing, the seating capacity is just over 400, meaning the library can accommodate about 5 percent of the full-time student body. Burd points out that the average university library can seat approximately 25 percent of its student body.

This holds especially true during finals week, where nearly 4,000 students came to study in one day (Dec. 12). Students were found studying on the floor and taking seats on the stairwell. “We are very limited in study space,” said Burd. “The library’s primary function is to provide a quiet place to come and study…come and work, and lately we have been overcrowded.”

The increased population in the library adds another concern: noise. While a noise suppression system has been recently installed, it’s impossible to keep 4,000 students quiet. “It’s difficult for our staff to monitor the noise,” said Burd. “This is our biggest issue.”

The Bryan Information Commons, the library addition currently under construction, is set to be available for students for the Fall 2012 semester. While the Commons will add 300 more seats, even with the additional space, the library will have the capacity to accommodate only 8 percent of the full-time students.

“We are understaffed, undersized and in need of facility improvements,” said Burd, “but the staff here rocks! Our job is to help students and we love it, no matter how crowded it is.”

Burd’s goal as dean of library services is to make Kimbel Library one that serves all students and faculty well. Successful studying requires quiet and comfort, and while the space in Kimbel is limited, Burd and the rest of the staff consistently do everything they can to assist the “frazzled” student.

“The library plays a primary function in the success of students. Our staff provides students with all of the help they need so they know that there are valuable resources here at the library. We don’t know everything, but we know where to find everything.” 


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