If you've wandered among the stacks of the Hauser Library recently, the overcrowding is painfully evident. Books neatly line the aisles and walls of some of the rooms, and the shelves are full to overflowing. Reed's library collection has simply outgrown its space.

To remedy this situation, plans are currently under way to begin construction on a new, four-story renovation and addition on the southeast corner of the library. Construction is scheduled to begin the day after graduation in May 2001 and to be completed by the opening of the academic year in September 2002.

The addition will create 60 percent more shelf space and provide more classrooms and faculty offices. In addition, it will unify library staff offices and move the student computing facilities into the main portion of the library.

"While there is uncertainty associated with the electronic revolution and what that means to libraries in the future," said dean of the faculty Peter Steinberger, "we believe that the library will continue to acquire lots of books in support of the academic program. We hope that this expansion will provide us with sufficient room for the next 10 years." The renovation will increase total shelf capacity from 16,000 to 25,000 volumes.

The new student computing facility will be housed in a two-story atrium and will be designed to mirror the sciences reading room on the north side of the building.

When we moved back into the renovated Hauser Library in 1989, Reed had a collection of about 330,000 books, and we were adding about 8,000 new books every year.

All of the journals we subscribed to came to us either as paper publications or on microfilm, but there was (and still is) a strong aversion to reading text on a microfilm reader, so paper journals were much preferred.

In 1989 Reed had a fully networked online catalog (we were one of the first colleges of our size to provide this kind of access) but we also still had a card catalog, in part because we didn't have a good backup if our online catalog failed.

To check out a book, students filled out cards by hand.

We acquired new books by mailing order forms to book dealers, and we gave them a year to find the book before we canceled the order.

In 1989 we had on our staff a catalog librarian who also provided support for our library's online systems. She happened to be good with computers. She learned as she went. That was the extent of our technology staff.

A student who wanted to find information in an online database made an appointment to talk about the topic of the search with a librarian, who actually executed the search. The annual budget for online searching was roughly $2,000.

And now, more than a decade later?

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