EDINBURG - Physical expansion of The University of Texas-Pan American Library may be complete, but the renovation inside is just beginning.
"The library is basically a resource for information, and we have to make the information as accessible as possible, whether it's electronic, paper or microfilm," said Lawrence Caylor, University Library director. "If you can't find it, you can't use it. It's like a large warehouse. If you can't find an item you're looking for, it's useless, even if it's in the building."
In early 1999, a $7 million, three-story, 49,000-square-foot addition opened on the facility's west side. It was built to hold the ever-growing collection of books, the library's technical service functions, study areas for library users and two state-of-the-art computer instruction classrooms with teleconferencing and distance education capabilities.
"(The classrooms) are used heavily," Caylor said. "The nice thing is the instructors bring their classes in here so they can be taught how to find information in various subject areas.
"It's one thing to take freshmen and walk them through something quickly that goes right over their heads," he continued. "This allows them to sit down and get an hour of concentrated information where they can go digging on their own, but help is available. It gives them a head start."
Now, books and personnel previously on the fourth floor are being relocated to the addition. Processing functions on the second floor - purchasing, receiving and cataloging - will move to the addition, too.
By the end of the spring semester, the fourth floor should reopen and house the bound journals. There also will be several study rooms and separate large workrooms for undergraduate and graduate students.
The fourth floor was expected to open earlier this year, but part of ongoing renovation includes classifying the journals with call numbers instead of alphabetically. That means every title change for a journal has to be recorded and linked to be kept in sequence for easy access.
Both the third and fourth floors will have electronic wiring for data connections. In the coming months, students can check out laptop computers at the circulation desk, download information at these connections and return them for other users.
"We're moving from providing college-level information to upper division graduate studies," Caylor said."STCC (South Texas Community College) has taken a large number of the lower division students - freshmen and sophomores. That means they come in here as juniors for upper level work and research."
Meanwhile, media and audiovisuals will move from the first floor to the third floor, with the relocation likely to commence in the next fiscal year (Sept. 1, 2000). There also will be individual stations with custom seating for viewing television programs and videos, and the faculty research center will be remodeled.
Newspapers and current periodicals will remain on the third floor.
Essentially finished, the second floor will house government documents previously found on the first floor. The documents are being indexed electronically to accelerate the search process, Caylor said, though the change is a time-consuming process.
The second floor features a row of button-operated compact shelves that open and close electronically. There also is shelving with special railings for future expansion of up to 500,000 more volumes.
Finally, on the first floor, the special collections, reading room and interlibrary loan rooms will be merged together. And by the fall semester, the area previously housing government documents will become a 35-station writing lab overseen by the Department of English. Teaching assistants will be available to provide assistance and answer questions.
"The only way you can learn to write is by practicing," Caylor said. "It will make a difference in retention rates, especially by keeping freshmen at the University."
Increased lighting also is planned for the main lobby and entrances.
And on all the floors, new custom carpeting is being laid, furniture reupholstered and replaced, and walls repainted. But due to the high cost for materials, some cosmetic changes will have to wait until funds are available, Caylor said.
All of the previous and planned renovations are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Caylor said. For instance, stacks are at least 36 inches apart, and restrooms have been modified with railing and wider stalls.
Overall, the University Library houses a collection of approximately 437,000 catalogued volumes, including more than 300,000 government documents, 2,000 periodical subscriptions, a million units of microform and 5,000 audiovisual items.
The UTPA library houses the Lower Rio Grande Valley Historical Collection, which covers all materials pertaining to the geographic area from Laredo to Corpus Christi south to Brownsville and the three Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila.
There also is the Rio Grande Folklore Archive, a collection of Lower Rio Grande Valley (South Texas and Northeast Mexico) proverbs, folk beliefs, tales, riddles and recipes.
The John H. Shary Room, located just off the main lobby of the University Library, is the focal point of the Shary Collection of business correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs and other important memorabilia that show the business operations of one of the Rio Grande Valley's most influential business leaders.
Detailed information about UTPA Library hours and services may be obtained at the circulation desk, which can be reached by telephone at 956/381-3306 or voice/TDD 956/381-2763. The library Web site is http://www.lib.panam.edu/.