“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
–Benjamin Franklin

Excitement is in the air as planning begins for the new UTC Library. The unanticipated, but welcomed decision to move forward with a new facility was made by Governor Phil Bredesen and approved by the Tennessee Legislature, providing one-time funds.

The current UTC Library building has a gross square footage of 116,349 and is no longer adequate, due to its size and design, to serve the needs of the students and faculty. “Equally important, since the current Lupton Library’s opening in 1974, library usage patterns and student learning styles have changed dramatically,” said Theresa Liedtka, dean of the Lupton Library. “UTC first placed the Library on its building priority list in 1989. Eighteen years later the University has been approved for funding in the amount of 48 million dollars to design a new library building of approximately 180,000 gross square feet, a gain of just over 60,000 square feet from the existing library building.”

Since 1974 the University has increased enrollment by over two-thirds, growing from a count of approximately 4,574 in 1974 to 8,923 in 2006. The existing Library originally had a seating capacity of 1,100. This seating capacity has decreased to approximately 670 seats due to necessary additions of shelving, technology, and new learning spaces.

In 1974 the Library opened its doors with 170,000 books and periodicals in its collection. Now, over 30 years later the collection has grown to over 1.7 million pieces of materials, including books, online resources, periodicals, DVDs, CDs, microfilm, etc. The shelving capacity for the original library at the time of construction was 500,000 volumes. The Library currently houses 503,000 volumes and it is only through collection evaluation, shifting and the adding of new shelving ranges that the current building is able to accommodate volume and other storage needs.

“Another major development has been the explosion of online materials and search tools not even on the horizon in 1974. Due to the construction design of the existing Library building, with water pipes above and below floors, adapting the space for current student needs has been challenging, when possible at all. Overall, a space analysis conducted in the year 2000 found the existing Library 58,575 square foot deficiency, per the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) standards,” said Liedtka.

The Library makes decisions based on student and faculty need. Numerous scholarly studies have demonstrated that students benefit from focused research instruction and that library use is an indicator of academic success for students.

“In the form of its staff members, collections and services, the UTC Library is here to support and serve the research and curricular needs of students and faculty. Customer service is the top priority for every staff member in our building. In short, we are here to help the students and faculty of UTC succeed. Last year the Library fielded just under 13,000 research questions, taught over 300 instructional sessions reaching over 5,500 students, filled over 12,000 interlibrary loan requests, circulated 30,000 plus items, 4,000 plus laptops, and provided group study space to approximately 8,000 groups,” said Liedtka.

The faculty, staff, and student assistants at the Lupton Library envision the new Library as the academic and intellectual center of campus, a marketplace of ideas. New building components potentially include classrooms, additional meeting and group study space for collaborative conversation and learning, quiet study spaces for contemplation and inspiration, informal and formal learning spaces to read, talk, rest with increased seating, flexible technologically-enhanced learning spaces that serve varied learning styles, a café, compact shelves and more.

The Planning process for the new Library has just begun. The process will include: identifying participants to develop a program statement with input from the Campus Community; analyzing existing library spaces, collections, services, and benchmarks, in relationship to the University’s Strategic Plan, Curriculum Plan, Technology Plan, and Master Plan; determining the information and library needs of future students and faculty and integrating current and future needs in a program statement.

Liedtka sees the new Library as the focal point for collaborative research and teaching for students and faculty in the 21st century. In building a new space, the UTC Library seeks to blend old traditions with new developments in library usage, with private carrels providing quiet study among rows of book stacks on one floor, complemented by comfortable chairs, wireless laptops, and an area designated as information commons to enhance group study and the navigation of library databases and other electronic tools on another. The new library will offer an academic and social gathering place for students, faculty, and members of the academic community through classrooms, labs, meeting and event spaces, and technology-equipped study areas and rooms. The Library’s goal is to create a warm, welcoming environment that brings UTC community members together to study, work, and relax, Liedtka said.

“The Library is the academic and intellectual heart of the campus. This philosophy is core to our design process. We want and need your input to make this project a success. Throughout the year student, faculty, staff, and community input will be sought,” said Liedtka. “In the meantime, if you have an idea or want to learn more about the process, please do not hesitate to contact me at theresa-liedtka@utc.edu or (423)425-4506 to share your ideas on the new Library. I look forward to the conversations ahead.”

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