My mother, Cheralyn Hendrix Powers ’71, worked in Fant Memorial Library as a student assistant when it was in the building now known as Welty Hall. I have always loved hearing her tell the story of her imagination getting swept away by the books she was shelving in the basement. Growing up, every time we visited a library I felt like I was embarking on an adventure.
That sort of serendipitous discovery of an unfamiliar book fosters intellectual excitement, and it is exactly what Fant Memorial Library wants to continue to encourage. Even as we are investing in cutting-edge technology, we will be actively preserving the experience my mother had in 1969, keeping 100,000 of our most important circulating books out on the shelves for students, faculty, and community members to discover while browsing.
As part of the renovation, we adopted a two-story beauty of an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS), or as we are fond of calling it, The Robot. Completed in mid- December 2016, we have now “ingested” (robot terminology for “stored”) many of the library’s collections to clear space for the final phase of construction. Right now, everything is available through the click of a button that says “Get it from the Robot,” which immediately activates the robotic arm to bring the appropriate book out of storage. This spring we will be involving the campus in a campaign to name our mechanical friend.
The 21st century world is ever-changing and libraries are no exception. I never dreamed that I would be managing a robotic employee, nor that having an engineer on site would be a necessity. Luckily, we found Nicholas Jones next door at MSU. With a lifelong love of robotics, Nicholas was the obvious choice as our new library systems administrator and is available to provide Robot tours upon request.
We have been trying to imagine even more ways for the public and community to interact with our new addition, so we are launching a “Feed the Robot” campaign. We will be accepting contributions to our print and e-book collections fund in exchange for a chance to “feed” The Robot. This way every member of the community will have an opportunity to enrich the university’s book collection, while getting up close and personal with the newest member of the library’s staff.
By storing these less frequently used materials, we are able to become a new kind of library. Our collections can expand without expanding the footprint of the library itself. We will be able to deepen our book collections. We will have opportunities to grow our Special Collections, with a new focus on southern, and specifically Mississippi women’s history. We will gain room for group study, meetings, conferences, or just hanging out with a cup of coffee and a magazine or popular book. We are now able to accommodate poetry readings in our open-air atrium, synchronous classes in a web-enabled tiered classroom, or community events and conferences in our configurable meeting space. Our goal is truly to be the heart of campus and a beloved place for the entire W family and larger community.
Fant Library has always been a place where memories are made and a curiosity about the world is nurtured for generations of women and men, and we want to collect your memories from the library’s past as we move into this new chapter. Please let me hear from you, or stop by for a visit.
Amanda Clay Powers
Professor and Dean of Library Services