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Alkek turns 25

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Photo by: Lesly De Leon | Staff Photographer

Students can look forward to a series of events hosted by the university this semester in celebration of Albert B. Alkek Library’s 25th anniversary, as well as renovations for the future.

Alkek staff will kick off the event-filled semester with the Book Pass Reenactment on Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. in the Quad.

The event is intended to recreate the symbolic move that occurred on Alkek’s completion day when the library was moved from the JC Kellam building to the newly completed library in its current location, said Joan Heath, university librarian.

During the original book pass event in 1990, a human chain was formed from the third floor of the JC Kellam building to the top steps of the newly completed Alkek library, according to university archives.

Four books were passed along the human chain that began with Jerome H. Supple, former president of the university, Heath said.

She said the book passing signified giving a new home to the university’s library collection.

This year’s book passing reenactment will begin at the plaza in front of Old Main, where President Trauth will begin the event and commemorate its significance, Heath said.

Heath said the celebration of Alkek’s 25 years of existence is a milestone for the campus and the library as a whole.

“What’s most important about the celebration of Alkek is it presents a good opportunity to focus on the library and how central it is to the campus community,” Heath said.

According to university archives, the library was transferred to 4 different campus locations, including Old Main, the Chemistry building, Flowers Hall and the

JC Kellam building. These shifts continued from 1903 on, until the collection found a permanent home following Alkek’s 1990 completion.

University officials decided to construct a building solely dedicated to serving as a library after the collection maxed out the allotted space in JCK, Heath said.

John Martinez, library facilities assistant, said he was shocked by the enormity of Alkek.

“When you walk into the library, everything is open—it’s huge,” said Martinez. “That’s never been the case with JCK. It had low ceilings and was very compact.”

Heath said that 25 years later, Alkek is now running into the same issue the JCK location encountered: not enough space.

Starting this month, Alkek will be subject to renovations that will take several years to complete, Heath said. The renovation will happen in phases that begin with the first floor and proceed upwards from there.

Heath says more space will be created through an infrastructure update.

“In the last 25 years, the enrollment has grown too,” Heath said. “You put all of those things together and it just puts us in the position where we really need to repurpose how the space and the building is used.”

Heath said the renovation plan includes an increase in space where students can collaborate for group projects, as well as individual study rooms.

“When Alkek was built, there were enough group study rooms,” Heath said. “But in the last 25 years, the types of assignments students have from their classes are not the same and Alkek doesn’t begin to have enough group spaces.”

Heath said the university will build a storage space at STAR Park to hold less-used materials rather than adding more floors to Alkek.

“My wish is that every student looks at the library as their third home,” Heath said. “They feel comfortable, they feel safe and they feel that they can get support from all of the library staff.”

Heath said university officials have worked to keep the library updated as Texas State shifts focus to becoming a research university.

“I’m very proud of what Texas State has become,” Martinez said. “When you get older, you learn to appreciate and respect that history.”

When Alkek first opened its doors, the library only had 12 PCs to offer, according to university archives. Today there are more than 80 computers on the main floor alone.

Despite all of the changes in Alkek over the past 25 years, the library’s mission has stayed the same, Heath said.

“The library belongs to the entire campus, so (the celebration events are) a way for everyone to be tied into it,” Heath said. “The core of the mission is opportunities to learn, create and discover.”

Melissa Bonano, student worker and biochemistry sophomore, said the silent floor of Alkek is her favorite part of the building because it gives students the chance to study and focus without any distractions.

“This is definitely the place everybody goes to so they can think about getting their life together and get things done,” Bonano said. “The library is the brain of campus.”

Heath said as a testament to Alkek’s centrality on campus, people should know that the library had 11,980 people walk through its doors on the first class day of the semester.

“I don’t know if some people realize just how many people use our services,” Heath said. “I was delighted to know that students know we’re here and that they are comfortable.”

Follow Kasandra Garza on Twitter at @KasGarza.