Xavier University Library Resource Center is located at the western end of the campus, near the corner of Drexel Drive and Carrollton Avenue. It occupies the first four floors of a six-story, 110,000 square foot building that first opened Fall 1993.
The main mission of the Library Resource Center (LRC) is to support the purposes and goals of the University by acting as the primary provider of educational and informational materials to students and faculty and staff members. The major operational objective is the choice, acquisition, and organization of information in its various forms and the instruction of our campus patrons in its most effective use.
Xavier University began its life in 1925 in buildings vacated by the move of Southern University to Baton Rouge in 1912. By 1931 the campus was moved to its present location upon the completion of the Indiana limestone English Gothic Administration Building located on what was then Palmetto Street (now Drexel Drive). The first library to serve this campus was located on the second floor of that building.
In October 1937, a separate library, also of Gothic design, was opened next door. This new library was originally a closed-stack facility, with students serving as library pages. At the time this library was opened, only the second floor was actually used for library collections and study space. The ground floor provided faculty offices and space for a large museum. The third floor, an unfinished attic, was used for art classes in the early days. It served a student population of approximately 500 undergraduate, graduate, and pharmacy students.
After World War II, returning veterans swelled the ranks of the student population, and demands on the Library’s collections and services became more intense. In the 1970s, Library Director Leslie R. Morris opened the stacks and expanded services to include a media center, an African-American book room, and a computerized circulation system. By now, the third floor had been finished and housed the Media Center, a television studio operated by the Communications Department, and the offices of some program staff.
Between the middle 1980s and the early 1990s, the student population at Xavier grew from approximately 1,700 to nearly 3,400 students. This unprecedented growth strained the space, staffing, and collections of the existing Library. Strides in educational technology placed an additional pressure to make the Library more technologically advanced in its approach to service.
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The small size of the original library was being felt as early as the late 1980s. Talks had been underway since the middle 1980s concerning a proposed expansion of the original 1937 building. Architectural considerations eventually dictated the design and construction of a completely new building that would incorporate modern lighting, environmental control, and accommodations for newer educational technologies.
Blitch and Associates and Billes-Manning Architects were engaged to produce a plan, and in the summer of 1991 ground was broken for a new structure. It was completed in time for the 1993-1994 school year, offering seating for nearly 800 simultaneous users. Features of particular note were a state-of-the-art Instructional Media Center and a modern archival facility, complete with its own temperature and humidity control and waterless fire extinguishing system.
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The earliest attempt to modernize the Library technologically came in 1979, when Director Leslie R. Morris formed a partnership with Loyola University Library that resulted in the installation of a CLSI integrated library system. The system included an automated circulation system and the basis for creating an online catalog.
Almost a decade later, after discussions with Loyola, a decision was made to separate from the partnership and purchase a newer, more flexible library system. In 1988, a contract with signed with Virginia Tech Library Systems (VTLS) to fully automate Xavier's library services. This project required several years of intense effort by various members of the Library staff and Computer Center. By 1993, circulation was completely automated, and XAC (Xavier Automated Catalog), an electronic catalog, had completely replaced the conventional card catalog.
During the 1990s, additional improvements made possible the creation of catalog records for serials and government documents. Members of the University Archives and Special Collections staff began to input descriptive records for unpublished collections of manuscripts, diaries, letters, photographs, and three-dimensional items.
In 1999 the original VTLS software was superseded by VIRTUA, the latest version. With that came XACWeb, which includes an improved record format and capability of performing a complex search with Boolean operators.
In the early 1980s, electronic searches of various literature were performed by librarians as intermediaries. Using a “dumb terminal” and dedicated telephone line, it was possible to access remotely-located databanks using a time-share system based on a price-per-minute access.
We began experimenting with floppy disk and CD-ROM databases in the early 1990s. These were rather crude, single person stations that required a manual update of the files every so many months. While they were often faster than manual searches of printed indexes, equipment breakdowns were frequent, which left much to be desired.
Recognizing the increasing influence of the World Wide Web on academic research, an office of Library Systems was created in 1998 with a mandate to make the Internet available to Library users. It was a lengthy process that took several years, requiring countless man hours to construct a fiber-optic backbone in the Library and other academic buildings, along with hubs, routers, and servers. It was an effort that consumed the attention of a restructured Information Technology Center and university administrators, as well as Library staff.
Although a rudimentary web page leading to a small selection of web-based online services was available as early as 1999, it wasn’t until 2001 that the Library achieved a true web presence. Now reachable through a separate URL, the Library’s web page offers a gateway to XACWeb, access to full-text online databases, and a growing collection of e-books and e-journals.
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An instructional media center has been part of the Library since the late 1970s, and it has altered its role as educational technology has changed and improved. In 1979 the collections were composed mainly of 16 and 35 millimeter films, filmstrips, and both 33 1/3 and 78 RPM disk recordings. Early forms of video, including U-Matic and Beta format were beginning to be added to the arsenal.
By the early 1990s, many of the earlier forms of video had been replaced by VHS player/monitors, large-screen color television monitors, and compact disc recordings.
As we entered the twenty-first century, the demands of distance education have meant more changes still. In 2000, the Library revised the role of the Instructional Media Center to prepare for the advent of newer educational technologies and the demands of distance education.
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The collection is currently composed of approximately 135,000 volumes and more than 1,500 active serial titles. The microform collection numbers over 725,000 units, and there are more than 2,500 Federal documents received as part of the Federal Depository Program. The Instructional Media Center holds nearly 6,000 recordings on compact disc, tape, or vinyl disk, and nearly 1,600 VHS tapes.
At the center of our publicly accessible collections is University Archives and Special Collections, which specializes in the history of the University, African-American history and culture, creative writing of the modern South, local history, and United States Catholicism. Here, students may see a collection of letters written by Richard Wright, original manuscripts by Langston Hughes, Chester Himes, and Robert Hayden, and rare photographs of Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey.
On the shelves are early books and incunabula, rare and autographed books by William Faulkner, Shirley Ann Grau, John A. Williams, Terry McMillan and Walter Mosley. Other treasures include one of the few known copies of Les Cenelles, the first anthology of poetry by people of African descent in the United States, an early reprint of Phyllis Wheatley’s poems, a poem in the hand of Frederick Douglass, and a collection of draft manuscripts by Louisiana-born fiction writer Andre Dubus.
More recently, Library staff and members of Xavier’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching wrote a successful proposal to Mellon that, combined with money from Model Institutes of Excellence, enabled us to purchase twenty-six computer workstations and three CD-ROM towers. This equipment became the nucleus of the Library’s local area network and the foundation on which our current technology was built.
We hope you enjoyed this short trip through the Library’s origins and recent history. The goal of the staff is to serve the University community in its information needs. We actively seek the suggestions and comments of all Library users. Feel free to make use of our electronic suggestion box with your questions and comments.
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