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Winthrop revises its library setup, moves archives

The former Bookworm building on Cherry Road will soon serve a new purpose as the site of Winthrop University's Dacus Library Louise Pettus Archives.

The three-story building has stood empty since last year, when the bookstore that serves students and the community moved to the DiGiorgio Campus Center.

But by the end of September, library staff members will begin moving the more than 6 million archived materials into the Cherry Road site - something Gina White said they are just "ecstatic" about.

"We had totally run out of room here," said White, the director of archives and special collections.

"In fact, I can count on one hand the number of shelves we had left to put things on."

Staff had considered using off-site storage or finding any available space in the library, but the Bookworm building will more than triple the space for the university's archival collections, she said.

More than 170 crates are packed with archived materials, and at least 1,600 more will be filled for the move.

Staff have had to delay the move due to the nearly half-million dollars in upgrades the old Bookworm site needs to house the archives, particularly a special AC system and compact shelving.

The bottom floor, where the special collections will be housed, has to be maintained at a temperature of 64 degrees with 40 percent relative humidity.

"Great fluctuations in temperature and humidity hurt the contents," White explained.

Compact shelving, or shelves that can physically roll out and increase space by at least 50 percent, also need to be installed. The main floor will house research and work areas, conference rooms, classrooms and two exhibition areas.

Dean of Library Services Mark Herring said the new location will have a "nice, museum feel" to it.

"It's a sizable archive," he said.

"I hope people will take the advantage to come look at it."

The top floor, which overlooks the main floor of the building, will hold a work area and audio and visual labs.

Having much more space couldn't come at a better time, White said. Most of the archives' use comes during the fall months.

"It's been growing constantly for the past eight years, ever since we got a larger presence on the web," she said.

White expects the use of the archives will increase with the move.

Jenny Williams is a doctoral candidate at the University of South Carolina. She has been using Winthrop's archives for a dissertation and is glad to hear of the larger space on Cherry Road.

"It's going to be incredible for students, historians and anyone who researches to have such a locale to work in for archives," she said.

Modern improvements

The archives aren't the only aspect of the library changing. Dacus Library will see many changes and upgrades throughout 2012, Herring said.

"Given the economy and state of South Carolina and the nation as a whole, we're not going to get a new building any time soon," he said.

"It's not 'Winthrop-ready.' It doesn't match the other buildings in sophistication or modernity."

The 42-year-old building needs improvements to bring it into the 21st century, he said.

Staff surveyed more than 500 students on improvements they would like to see at the library.

Students highlighted six major interests: 24-hour access; group student and meeting rooms; individual study areas; a cafe and lounge area; smarter technology; and updated furniture.

Herring said overall the projects will be included in stages, but the first three have top priority and are most likely to be completed first.

There also has been discussion of "Technobooths" - places where students can sit down and plug in their computers or iPads - and touch-screen technology.

Longer range plans include upgrading floors and creating a children's library room downstairs with more than 15,000 children's books, which would specifically aid elementary education majors.

Most aspects could be transferred to a new building if necessary, Herring said.

The plans will have to be developed more and go through an approval process, but he estimated all of these projects could cost several $100,000.

Using the library

Dean of Library Services Mark Herring said a common misconception is that the public can't use Winthrop University's Dacus Library.

Members of the public have to fill out a form saying who they are and why they want to use the facility to receive a 6-month or day pass. It's for the safety of the students, he emphasized. It's also so staff can be sure students have access to the computers and materials.

"We welcome the public, but we need to know who's here and what they're doing," Herring said.

For information on building access, call 803-323-2131.