On July 23, 1979, new College of Charleston employee Katina Strauch walked down the sweet-smelling, flower-lined Greenway path to her new position inside the Robert Scott Small Library. She was excited to begin her new role as head of acquisitions for the library.
Not only did she love the smallness of the College, compared to her previous job at Duke University, but Charleston was the place that she and her husband Bruce had always wanted to call home. She relished the fact that there were then only 4,600 students and 200 faculty members on campus. She also liked the perk of free parking on campus.
A lot has changed over the past 37 years. The College grew, Addlestone Library opened, parking became a scarcity and Strauch rose through the ranks to become head of collection development and assistant dean for technical services.
Now, on the eve of her retirement from the College, The College Today caught up with Starch to learn more about the many changes she has witnessed and been a part of:
What first attracted you to the College of Charleston?
I was just married and my husband and I loved Charleston and decided we wanted to live here. We were lucky enough to get jobs here in Charleston, my husband at the Citadel and me at the College of Charleston. Charleston was a different place back then. It was rundown in a charming way. There were few restaurants. College kids ate at Perditas and The Old Towne and Jacks. The preservationists and Mayor Riley were fighting over building Charleston Place. Gian Carlo Menotti and Mayor Riley were preparing for a Charleston Spoleto Festival.
How has technology changed the way libraries do business?
Incredibly. We used to have a card catalog and everything was in print. In my acquisitions department, we made extensive use of the telephone to place orders for books and journals. Now everything is on the web and done by email or text or whatever the new communication medium is.
Do people still whisper in the library?
Yes. There are some areas that are for quiet study, but the Library is noisier than it used to be. The movement to group study and streaming media and videos, courses online and Desire to Learn opportunities encourage more and more interaction.
With more and more information online, do you foresee a time when libraries will no longer be needed?
Definitely not. I will draw a distinction between libraries and librarians. And both will definitely be needed.
First, why libraries? Since so much information is online, libraries do not need the storage for print that they have had in the past, so we are seeing reapportionment of space on campuses everywhere. However, print materials are still needed for posterity if nothing else and not everything is online.
We can’t rely on the internet and technology to preserve everything. Libraries were created as storehouses of the world’s knowledge and we are trying to continue that role. There are libraries that are forming consortia to assure the preservation of print resources and interlibrary lending of these materials if they are not owned locally. At the same time there is a big movement to find and make available unique local resources through projects like the Lowcountry Digital Library in South Carolina, our partnership with the South Carolina Historical Society. There are also countless national and international open access and other initiatives like Hathitrust, the Directory of Open Access Journals and others.
Second, why librarians? Students, faculty and the general public need help navigating through the constantly changing quagmire of resources that are available everywhere. Our own Addlestone Library has hundreds if not thousands of resources listed on our web pages alphabetically and by content areas and disciplines.
How has the CofC library changed since you first arrived?
When I came in 1979, we had a library materials budget (the money allocated for content largely for books and journals) of $150,000. Now it is nearly $3 million and includes much more than books and journals – we are talking DVDs, streaming media, PDFs, graphic novels, blogs, discovery services, institutional repositories and more and more new formats. There are thousands of more resources free and online to choose from.
We also need to market those resources to our students and faculty and the general public through Libguides and classes and one-on-one meetings with faculty and students. When I came to the college in 1979, there was a mandatory one-hour credit library course that all students had to take before they could graduate. This class was removed from the curriculum in the 70s. Right now such a course is greatly needed by our students. We do teach many individual classes and there are some credit library courses as well but they are not required.
Do you have nostalgic feelings for the Dewey Decimal system?
This is a funny question. Very few academic libraries use the Dewey Decimal classification system these days. At the College of Charleston, we use the LC (Library of Congress) classification system. We also have what’s called a discovery service which helps us to navigate “metadata” which is what cataloging is called these days.
What is the strangest thing you have witnessed in the library?
There has been flooding and the many times we had to move books from the bottom shelves to the top shelves to keep books dry when hurricanes were coming. I remember when the English department was downstairs in the Robert Scott Small Library and we had regular flooding even when there wasn’t a hurricane. We used to have a cage downstairs in the library where some of Special Collections was and the head of Special Collections climbed over the very high fence once to get inside.
What is the biggest thing you will miss about the College?
The people and my colleagues. It has been a glorious place to work. I plan to still be around for a long time!