The changes that the University of Wisconsin-Parkside library has been making have paid dividends, with the program winning one of three 2019 Academic Staff Excellence Awards given by the UW System Board of Regents.
The library also received a $5,000 award with the honor.
Directed by Anna Stadick, the Parkside library has seen big gains in use over the last three years, including a 13 percent increase in visits, 15 percent increase in visits per student and an 18 percent growth in study room reservations.
These increases don’t come out of nowhere. Over the last several years, the library has put effort into improving the spaces and resources used by students to help cater more to their needs.
Parkside has improved the study rooms available to students with the addition of reservable group rooms. The rooms are themed to make the experience more enjoyable for the students, including a 1960s-themed room with elements of the era like shag carpeting and lava lamps, and a Wisconsin room decorated with cow prints, sports teams and a hunting theme.
Creating a studious atmosphere was a big reason Stadick said these changes were implemented.
“We have a student population that has a lot of people that live in the area, and it can be hard sometimes at home to find a nice, quiet place to study,” Stadick said. “We really try to make it amenable for those students.”
An addition to creating this atmosphere was controlling the noise level, with each floor up being quieter than the last.
Technological improvements have also been a big focus, with the library adding laptop checkouts and shifting from a physical collection to more of a digital one.
“It used to be that you spent most of your budget on books,” Stadick said, “but now it’s spent on resources you can use online, like articles and streaming videos.”
The library also hosts one-time events during the year — such as mini golfing — that bring students into the library and get them familiar with the setup.
Inviting the community
To go along with the improvements made for the students, the Parkside library has added new areas and activities in the past few years that invite the community to join in.
In 2016, the library received a grant from the Guttormsen family that transformed and improved an area set aside for child education.
What is now called the Guttormsen Family Literacy Lab is a space where children can come in, study and work on their reading, as well as being a place for education majors at the university to get hands-on experience working with kids.
The grant helped improve the space itself along with allowing the library to purchase more books for children.
The library also partnered with local craft breweries in the past to make beer to celebrate different books, allowing adults and a different groups to get involved at the library.
This year for National Library Week, it hosted adult story time, which had people come in and read excerpts of books while hanging out and drinking beer.
The library will continue working with the local breweries for future events.
Learning from others
Stadick said winning the award felt great and was an honor, but she also attributes the success to what she and her colleagues have learned from other libraries.
“It’s great to be singled out, but I wouldn’t say we’re singular,” Stadick said. “There are a lot of libraries doing great things. Librarians really learn from each other and share information at meetings.”
The library has received other awards in the past, including two National Endowment of the Arts Big Read grants and the 2017-18 Wisconsin Library Association’s Library of the Year award.