December 20, 2007

Morris Library home to wealth of resources

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — With more than 2.4 million volumes, 3.1 million microform units and 12,500 current periodicals and serials, Morris Library at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is a treasure trove of knowledge and materials. But in addition to the what's available on site and via loans from other libraries across the nation, Morris Library offers a host of other resources.

The library is a portal to millions of written materials of all types from fiction novels to the latest research. Library users also have access to I-Share, the automated statewide system integrating 65 Illinois research libraries, as well as a comprehensive array of databases and other electronic files. Services provided through the library include reference assistance, instructional and technical support, distance learning, geographic information systems (GIS) and multimedia software development. The library's Special Collections Research Center houses extensive sets of manuscripts, personal letters, photographs, rare book collections, SIUC records and archival copies of academic dissertations and theses.

And that's just the beginning. Information of all kinds is just an instant message away. From 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. weekdays when school is in session, people can contact the library's information desk via "Librarian IM" using the popular computer instant messenger services AOL, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ and GoogleTalk. Instant messaging is easy by going to the library Web site at and clicking on "Ask Anything" in the upper right corner. The same cyber-address allows question e-mailing too and one can always get answers by calling 618/453-2818 for information or 618/453-1455 for the circulation desk.

From children's literature and curriculum materials to CDs and DVDs to maps and government documents, Morris Library's collection is quite diverse. There are music scores, videos, microforms that include back issues of newspapers and journals dating back to the mid-1800's. And if by chance a patron wants something not available at Morris, they can likely soon have it through an interlibrary loan.

Morris Library's Instructional Support Services division provides technical support to the SIUC campus and community, helping faculty create web pages, producing videos and graphics. Tulis said it's one of the first University libraries in the country offering this level of technical support. While written materials will always be invaluable, Susan E. Tulis, associate dean for information services, said the library is also moving more and more into electronic databases and services.

"The beauty of it is students and faculty have access to it from their residence hall rooms or homes 24/7," she said.

There are a number of interdisciplinary databases, Tulis said, giving students, faculty and staff the ability to quickly look through specific databases for materials they need or utilize aggregate databases that incorporate numerous other resources. You can find acronyms, resume instructions, medical news, voting information and hundreds of other topics within the electronic databases.

The Learning Express Library is another invaluable online resource. It's an interactive program offering a wide array of practice tests and tutorials for students and adult learners. Practice tests include ACT and SAT and other entrance exams, as well as Civil Service exams and tests for real estate, GED, firefighters and law enforcement, citizenship, nursing, teachers and more. Visitors to Learning Express find instructions and strategies to use at their own pace along with timed, full-length practice tests, scored immediately with explanations for wrong answers. Various e-Books offer test preparation and skills help.

In addition to standardized tests, Learning Express career tools help users search for a job, prepare a resume, and improve their interview and networking skills. A limited number of the Learning Express resources are open to anyone but typically, an SIUC affiliation or a library courtesy card (if one is in the facility) open the way to the complete package.

Not only can students, faculty and staff access the library's materials and computers, but Illinois residents may come to Morris Library and use the resources available while there, or for a nominal fee, purchase a courtesy card.

Morris Library courtesy cards are available for community members at just $10 for six months. The card allows users to borrow materials and gives them the ability to access online resources when visiting the library. Corporate/research courtesy cards are also available for a fee and include borrowing privileges and interlibrary loans.

Those qualifying for free courtesy cards include Friends of Morris Library, Alumni Association members, Community Listeners (handled through the Division of Continuing Education) and the spouses or partners of SIUC faculty, staff and students. Also, courtesy cards are available upon proof of enrollment or employment at institutions that are members of the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market, including John A. Logan College, Shawnee Community College, Rend Lake College and Southeastern Illinois College.

Meanwhile, Morris Library just keeps getting bigger and better. The $56.5 million expansion and renovation project continues to move along smoothly. The 50,000-square-foot addition and renovation of the basement through fifth floors is set for completion in summer or early fall 2008. When that's done, work to renovate the sixth and seventh floors, expected to take about a year, will begin.

"The goal is for the library to be offering library services and resources in the new facility in time for the start of classes for the spring semester of the 2008-2009 academic year," said David H. Carlson, dean of library affairs. A January 2009 grand opening is expected. Carlson said a transitional move into floors three through five is anticipated after the 2008 spring break.

The modernized and enlarged facility will include three new computer classrooms, group study rooms, an auditorium, an Internet café and new heating and air conditioning systems. Some resources are currently at McLaffery Annex and others in new locations at Morris Library due to construction and renovation. But everything is still accessible and available to visitors, Tulis said.

"Morris Library is still very much open," Tulis said. "We still have 109 computers for people to use. We have or have access to almost any materials and information resources a person might want."