Since its establishment in 1879, Sam Houston State University has been home to three different libraries: The George Peabody Memorial Library, The Harry F. Estill Library and the Newton Gresham Library.
This week is National Library Week and the Newton Gresham Library, located near the Sam Houston statue on campus, was first occupied in 1969, and it is the third library the institution has established.
“Newton Gresham was a former student of SHSU,” Director of Library Services Ann Holder said. “He was on the board of regions and he was a lawyer in Houston.”
The first library at SHSU was the building now known as a social gathering place, the Peabody building. It was originally the George Peabody Memorial Library. The Peabody Library was built in 1902, and it remained the library until 1928, when student population outgrew the space.
The second library established on campus was the Harry F. Estill Library. The Estill Library was used until student population outgrew the space once more in 1969. Now this building is referred to as the Estill building and is used for various University offices while the Newton Gresham Library is accommodating the student population for library purposes.
“I would say, if you’re going to give it a name, we are either the heart or the center [of campus] because we do support all areas of the campus,” Holder said. “If students are given an assignment to find information, this is the place that they should be coming.”
The library is estimated to possess 1.4 million books. The library also provides access to computers with the computer lab containing 72 computers, 20 computers stationed in front of the reference desk and more throughout the building’s four floors.
“Students come here to study, talk or sleep,” Holder said. “Primarily what we see is that they are using materials and working together in the library.
The library has 21 librarians and 28 staff members. According to Holder, the library is most busy during the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“We’re not busy on Thursday nights, but we are busy during the day on Thursdays,” Holder said. “It’s very busy during the day because we have so many students that either live off-campus or that are commuting so they need a place to come in between classes. According to the time of the semester, will tell us how busy it will be at night—always two weeks before exams. It has been busier probably the last two years at night than previous semesters.”
The library has three collaboration tables and several group study areas. Collaboration tables are tables set up to display what is on a laptop on a screen large enough for a group to work on it together. The group study areas cannot be reserved, but students can get a key to a room from the front desk to have the room for up to three hours. Also, the library has study carols assigned for faculty and graduate students by semester and three other study carols that are available for all students by checking out a key.
“A study carol is a small room that is very bare-boned,” Holder said. “It has nothing more in it than a desk, a chair, and maybe a bookcase. It’s a place where a graduate student or faculty member can go and use library materials and write for their research.”
The library has both hard-copy and electronic books. There are close to $300,000 worth of electronic books accessible through the library’s catalog. There are journals, magazines and music collections with books and DVDs.
“We’re not just books anymore,” Holder said “Almost everything the library has is available on your desktop. The whole key to it is that by using our website, it will get you into more resources that have been very carefully selected and identified to support research at a college university level for both students and faculty. All of this is available both on and off campus so you have access to it 24/7.”
The special collections area of the library has manuscripts and rare materials such as first edition Mark Twain.
The library is open to the public because it is a state institution. However, only students, faculty and staff can check out materials unless a person owns a TexShare card.
“TexShare is the resource sharing program established by the state of Texas,” Holder said. “If you go to your public library, your community college library or a university library in the state, they can give you a TexShare card if you are in good standing—meaning you don’t owe them money. Then you can come to another library and check out materials based on the circulation policy and you don’t have to pay for the card.”
The library updates its social media accounts in order to keep students informed on a daily basis.
“It’s so that you can sort of track what we’re doing and we’re not sitting over here isolated and not letting you know what’s going on,” Holder said. “We have vastly improved.”