El Dorado News

May 22, 2018
El Dorado News Times

SouthArk Library shares future plans with public

By By Brittany Williams Staff Writer
This article was published March 23, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

EL DORADO — South Arkansas Community College Library staff invited the community to share its plans for the future at a forum Monday.

Library director Philip Shackelford said that the it’s the only academic and research library in the county. Though it primarily serves people in Union County, membership is open to anyone in south Arkansas and provides the community with over $10 million in free resources and services.

“We have a wide variety of educational resources that are used for SouthArk faculty and students, but we also have growing fiction, religious fiction and general interest collections as well,” he said. “We have a 110-seater auditorium and a 10-seater conference room that are both available for community use. In terms of actual collections, we have over 33,000 print volumes and over 450,000 digital items available for you through Hoopla Digital.”

Hoopla Digital is streaming service where users can access e-books, audiobooks, movies and television shows for free with a library membership, Shackelford said.

“I mentioned that there were almost half a million titles through Hoopla and to purchase all of those in physical format would’ve taken well over $7 million and we were able to acquire Hoopla at a fraction of that price … All you need is a library card,” he said.

As of summer 2015, the SouthArk Library has an archive and special collections that includes historical materials and documents surrounding local history topics, notable south Arkansans and institutions that were housed where the community college stands today, Shackelford said.

“Those collections are available for research and then we’re also always open for donations of historical material that falls into those categories,” he said.

Libraries are becoming community centers that enhance quality of life, doubling as meeting spaces, gathering places and centers for continuing education, Shackelford said.

“We see libraries serving at the intersection of education, resources and community,” Shackelford said. “We think that several of the events we’ve been able to host over the past few months serve as specific examples of this relationship in action.”

The library director said that it has hosted over two dozen programs since July 2016 such as lectures on plant-based nutrition by Dr. James Sheppard and the importance of bees by Robin Bridges, movie nights and receptions.

He said, “February is nationally recognized as American Heart Month so on three different occasions throughout the month of February, we invited the nursing students from our health sciences program to come over to the library and they performed free blood pressure screenings.”

This event gave nursing students an opportunity to practice a job skill. It also was an opportunity for the library to serve as facilitator and provide a service to the public, he said. He also cites industry research that links the quality of library facilities and engagement to student success.

“There’s research out there that says students who receive active engagement from their library perform better and are retained at a higher rate,” he said. “An example of this is our personal librarian program, which is brand new as of this semester. Starting January 5th, all new students at SouthArk received the name of a specific person who will be able to answer their questions throughout their time at SouthArk.”

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