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18 January 2008
Town & Gown:
Houston Cole Library: ‘read’ily accessible

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - Town and Gown

Reprinted here in its entirety.

School is back in session, but much of the staff at the Houston Cole Library is maintaining the festive spirit of the holidays. “It’s like Christmas every day for me,” says Deborah Fragoso, the technical services assistant for acquisitions at the library.

“When I open up daily shipments of new books and pass them around to the library staff, their faces light up,” Fragoso says. The outdoor wreaths, garland and lights have been boxed up till next year, but inside Cole Library, faces are still aglow.

Fragoso says a big holiday read this year was the seventh and final novel of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Two other new books that caught her attention as good reads for both youth and adults alike are The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls.

Fragoso endorses these two books as an interesting read with vintage pictures and descriptions of things fathers would teach their sons and mothers would teach their daughters, like how to build a tree house, grow a crystal and make a friendship bracelet. These two books, pinpointed as well-developed publications by Fragoso, have recently been listed on the New York Times top five list in the category of hardcover advice.

Jacksonville State University faculty, staff and students are fortunate to have a knowledgeable staff of librarians as well as access to the tallest academic building in the state of Alabama where one can access books such as these, as well as numerous others, many times throughout the year. University librarian William Hubbard has watched hundreds of books go on and off the shelves of the 12-floor building since he began 20 years ago. Hubbard says since 1988, there have been some significant changes in the library.

“In 1988, the main finding tools in the library were the card catalog and printed periodical indexes,” says Hubbard. “Now, information, from book location and circulation status to electronic books and full-text journal articles, is accessed by computer.”

Hubbard explains the library also creates its own digital content by scanning such materials as The Jacksonville Republican, The First Hundred Years, and The Life and Times of Houston Cole, and placing them online for immediate access from any computer in the world.

Cole Library has dramatically increased its accessibility. Students who once spent hours in the library searching for a single source for a research paper by thumbing through book after book can now efficiently search the library’s databases, both physical and electronic, from any computer with an internet connection. Most scholarly journals and articles can be viewed in electronic format and printed; the days of staring at the micro-film screen are a closing chapter in the library’s history.

“Perhaps the greatest change in 25 of librarianship at JSU is the librarians, themselves,” says Hubbard. “The current generation of librarians has an interest and skill sets in areas unknown in 1988.”

Hubbard says, “Web development, Internet applications and Web 2.0 technologies offer new opportunities for enhanced user services. The JSU librarians are adept with these technologies and they constantly strive to adapt them to the benefit of the university.”

JSU’s librarians do not only aid students, staff and faculty on campus, (each floor of books houses a librarian with expertise in the floor’s subject matter), but they also share their knowledge by means of publication and presentations statewide, regionally and internationally. Through their effort, Houston Cole Library is recognized as a leader in the state of Alabama and its reputation is spreading beyond our borders.

The library’s reputation extends past its academic merit into helping the community in other ways as well. This past year, librarian Carley Suther and secretary to the University librarian Lynn Varcak planned “Red Wine and Dark Chocolate: An Anti-oxidant Affair,” an event exceeding their $1,500 goal and raising almost $2,700 for the American Heart Association. The funds were raised with the assistance of a silent auction on the 11th floor as attendants mingled over heart-healthy food and drinks, including green tea, on the 12th floor observation deck.

Between planning fund raisers, shelving books and assisting staff, faculty and students with resource needs, it is a wonder JSU’s librarians have any spare time to sit down with a book and read themselves. However, Fragoso says a little reading was part of her plans over the holiday season.

She is currently reading The Rosewood Casket, a mystery taking place in the Appalachian Mountains by Sharyn McCrumb because she likes the author so much she has decided to read all of her books. For those looking for new pages to turn, Fragoso suggests I Am America by Stephen Colbert for adult interest with a witty twist and The Yellow Watermelon by Ted M. Dunagan as a “beautifully written book with an important message for 7-9th graders.”

All of the books Fragoso is so excited about this year can be found in Houston Cole Library with a few clicks on a keyboard. And if these suggestions are not in your preferred genre, JSU’s competent library staff will help you hunt for just the right pages to exercise your mind.

Book borrowing privileges are available for those who are not students or faculty of JSU by joining “Friends of the Library” for a $10 annual fee.

For more information visit the Houston Cole Library Web site at

Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this article.

About William A. Meehan

Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.

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