CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Valley Library at Oregon State University has been named "Library of the Year" by the Library Journal - the first time a university library has ever won the award.
The OSU library, which recently completed a $40 million-plus renovation and expansion, will be featured in the June edition of the journal, which is the nation's premier publication focusing on public, private and university libraries.
"This wasn't about how big we were, or how much money we spent on the expansion," said Karyle Butcher, the Donald and Delpha Campbell University Librarian at OSU. "It was about service. We provide services - not only to students, but to all Oregonians - that really are unique to an academic library."
One such service cited by the journal's editors was an Internet "boot camp" held at OSU for school and rural librarians throughout Oregon. The university brought 46 of these librarians to campus to teach them about the Internet, working cooperatively with the Oregon State Library and different telephone companies. At the completion of the program, all of the participants also received a computer and other resources.
The program evolved from another initiative called Jumpstart which was funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant that allowed OSU library staff members to train Oregon librarians on how to better access government information stored on compact discs.
John Berry, editor-in-chief of the Library Journal, called The Valley Library a "dynamic place" that is service-oriented, listens to its consumers, and has strong faculty and administrative support.
"First and foremost, it's a damn good academic library - one of the best we've ever seen," Berry said. "And it's improved tremendously in just the last couple of years. The thing that really pushed The Valley Library over the top, compared with other libraries, was how they have reached out off campus to embrace the community, the state of Oregon and places beyond.
"I don't know of any academic library anywhere that reaches out more, or even as much."
Another of the services cited by the Library Journal was the "Kids Need Libraries" program in collaboration with the Corvallis-Benton County Library which helped train K-12 teachers to better understand how resources at The Valley Library could effectively be utilized by their students.
And then there are the little touches. Butcher, the 1998 Oregon Librarian of the Year, has an office without a window, as does her entire staff. The areas along the library's numerous windows, which overlook the beautiful central campus, were all reserved for student study areas.
Butcher said the focus on students and faculty - and on other clients, both on and off campus - is a critical part of what makes The Valley Library such a success. Increasingly, libraries are about much more than books and a building.
The keys to a successful library, she said, are service and access.
"Libraries are moving toward a seamless information flow," Butcher pointed out. "We've become consortia that share databases as a way of managing costs and improving efficiency. There has been a growing realization that no one can go it alone."
OSU's award chances weren't hurt by the expansion and renovation of The Valley Library. The project which took nearly three years effectively doubled the space of the existing library and thoroughly modernized the existing six-story structure.
A major part of the new library - which combines structural changes with the emphasis on service - is the library's new Information Commons. It includes a multimedia technology resource center to help students develop and produce multimedia presentations, has an electronic classroom with 24 networked computer workstations, and 20 circulating laptop computers that students can check out for use within the building.
Perhaps even more important are the people resources - a staff of experts available to help students and faculty use the new technology.
The Valley Library also is noted for its technological capabilities, which stretch off campus. The library houses the university's distance learning program and serves as headquarters for OSU Statewide, which makes Oregon State's unique resources available to Oregonians in every corner of the state.
Though technology is a hallmark of the new building, it also has nearly 1.5 million volumes of books, more than 160,000 maps and government documents on microfilm, and numerous other resources accessible to students, faculty and other users.
The university's Special Collections also are housed at The Valley Library, including nearly 500,000 papers, books, medals and research notebooks belonging to the late Linus Pauling.
Butcher said the award helps cap a frantic, yet rewarding stretch of three years during which the library staff worked feverishly to accommodate students, faculty, staff and other Oregonians during the construction phase.
"The building is an attention-grabber," Butcher said, "and it's been the focus on campus during the past couple of years. We've been smart enough not to get too carried away with that and to focus our efforts on services - to students, faculty and others - because that's our bread and butter. Always has been; always will be."