PTC Libraries Are Rolling With The Times
They used to be quiet places where people tiptoed and whispered or fingered though ancient card catalogs searching for titles amid sprawling book stacks. The emerging 21st century library is traveling along a new, widely meandering path, and the libraries of Piedmont Technical College (PTC) are riding shotgun.
PTC Head Librarian Lola Bradley is eager to streamline and maximize the college’s library offerings, which are rapidly changing to serve an expanding mission that has been galvanized by new electronic technologies. Growing up in her native Ukraine, Bradley fell in love with reading and books as a young child. But libraries have changed so much since then. People still enjoy books, just in different forms.
“I really love today’s American libraries,” she said. What borrowers can get far transcends the physical library space. “With resources like interlibrary loans, people can get a book even if it’s from another state!” And with expanding digital collections, users can download and enjoy a wide variety of media.
Many college students may not be aware of the range of information they can get from their libraries. With access to myriad online databases, they may not see much need in actually visiting their libraries in person. However, there are great benefits to utilizing the library one on one.
“When seeking help, people say to us all the time, ‘I’m sorry to bother you.’ But we want to be ‘bothered.’ We want to help,” Bradley said. “That is why we are here. We want you to get to know the library, Come play a little bit. We have children’s books, DVDs, audiobooks, magazines and journals, as well as academic texts. People should get comfortable with the library. And there are lots of restful study spaces and private nooks.”
The library on the Lex Walters Campus-Greenwood maintains 10,000 subscriptions. Chances are that if anyone is looking for a specific title, they will find it, at least digitally. But if actual print publications are what they are looking for, libraries on all PTC campuses can borrow materials from libraries outside the college’s seven-county service region. That’s because of their association with PASCAL (the Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries), which serves more than 228,000 students at 55 colleges and universities through a shared library services platform. It provides access to rapid print delivery for more than 12 million print volumes housed in academic libraries across South Carolina.
“Your library card (student ID card) opens doors to new worlds of information,” Bradley said. And libraries are constantly evolving.
While the Greenwood campus houses the main library, campus Library Resource Centers on each PTC campus serve as extensions in a rich network of college media intelligence.
“It is a great value to our students to be able to come in the Library Resource Center and use the computers and printers,” said Sandra Williams-Allen, who staffs the Abbeville County Campus LRC. “There is always someone available to help students as they navigate our online systems. … Most of our students utilize electronic resources. They do read books, just not physical books.”
Other PTC library staff expressed similar insights.
“Our library is small, but we have the option for students to order books and other resources from the main campus and have them sent here. We get a lot of support from the Greenwood campus library,” said Linda Favor-Dawkins, who staffs the Edgefield County Campus LRC. “We always make sure our computer lab is available, and we have a printer, also.”
The Wi-Fi, computers, and printers are an invaluable resource for many on the county campuses.
“Our most utilized resources are the computers,” said Cecelia Maston with the McCormick County Campus LRC. “Here in McCormick, very few of our students have computers at home, so they make good use of the LRC to complete their assignments.”
Cathy White, who works on the Newberry County Campus, concurred: “Most of our students are working and have families. They come in to do their homework and print things out. Some don’t have good internet access at home and have to come to the LRC to take exams.”
Dorothy Holmes at the Laurens County Campus noted that the LRC also provides for some of students’ most basic needs.
“I have a lot of students coming in to get student ID cards and parking decals,” she said. “I work with special accommodations students who might need extra time or a quiet room to work in. Some of our nursing students come in to have things they need printed or to make copies.”
Bradley hopes students will come in and see what is new and changing at their library. The Greenwood library offers a dedicated private, multi-cubicle tutoring area and The Writing Center, which has regular hours to assist students with their writing needs.
Libraries across the country are reinventing themselves to be much more than just warehouses of information. They are now very much social hubs, job search resources, podcast generators, museums, town hall discussion salons, and overall innovation incubators for the communities they serve. Many are known for offering games and other entertainments for folks who are just looking for pleasant distractions from the constant hustle of everyday life.
The main PTC library in Greenwood has invited students to help put together a basic, old-fashioned puzzle. Participants are entered into a drawing, with winners taking home the puzzle itself. After each puzzle is finished, it is replaced by a new one.
Main library staff include Kayla Leopard, circulation and serials manager, who hires and trains Work Study students and ensures the Circulation Desk runs like clockwork. She also renews magazine, scholarly journal, and newspaper subscriptions for all campuses. Sara Morrison, a technical services librarian, is heralded as the “guru of Alma/Primo,” the Library Management System. Joy Griffin serves students in the library’s computer lab and creates ID cards for students who study off campus.
Bradley wants students and faculty to know that the library is there for them, and she welcomes their input on what they would like to see and engage with.
“Everyone owns the library,” she said. Feedback is wanted and appreciated. Today’s libraries are no longer designed simply to sign up new readers. “Our objective now is to create critical thinkers.”
To learn more about PTC library resources, please visit www.ptc.edu/library.
• PTC Head Librarian Lola Bradley
• Linda Favor-Dawkins, Edgefield Campus LRC
• Cecelia Maston, McCormick Campus LRC
• Dorothy Holmes, Laurens County Campus LRC
• From left: Sara Morrison, Carol Dial (recently retired), Kayla Leopard, and Lola Bradley
• A peek inside the Greenwood campus library
• Local newspapers rack at Greenwood campus library