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By Robert Gillespie
Suanne Muehlner, who retired last month after more than 20 years as director of Colby's libraries, remembers the Miller Library she inherited: the stacks dark and dirty, the metal desks too small to hold much of anything, the staff crammed into little rooms. That's the way it looked in 1981, back in the days of the card catalogue, when computers on campus were rare and the World Wide Web was pie in the sky--back when Muehlner was the unanimous choice to assume directorship of the three libraries on campus.
Colby's investment in the 1983 addition to Miller "transformed everything," Muehlner says--opening up space for more books, letting in light, combining study areas with the stacks. In the advancing electronic age the cumbersome card catalogue disappeared.
"We took some risks. You evaluate what's out there and go ahead and do things," Muehlner said. "It has served us well."
The perception of the library changed, too. One surprise: "Students today are reluctant to use books," she said. For years they have been able to use the Internet from their rooms, a practice she thinks will become even more pronounced.
Muehlner advocated user education during her two decades in command of Miller and the art and music and science libraries. Librarians not only have to keep up with all the full-text databases and show students how to use them, she says; they have to teach the difference between reliable and unreliable Web sites. And they'll nudge students toward hard copy and other traditional formats.
"Librarians now know so much more," she said. "Librarians think it's a good idea to expand their interests. The more you know, the better off you are." When she hired new library personnel, Muehlner sought people with broad academic backgrounds.
"We're not a major research institution," she said. "We want to serve the institutional needs of our faculty and students."
And while new books came in, new technology enabled disks to hold more and more information, and space planning became important. Little wonder the M.B.A she earned at Northeastern turned out as useful as her degree in library science from Simmons. "Management techniques and statistical analysis were handy to know," she said.
Even if today's students don't use the library as students did 10 or 25 or 50 years ago, never fear, Muehlner says: libraries will still be full of books because countless volumes and monographs will never make it onto the Internet.
She has walked through the library looking for drips and leaks, fielded complaints about fines, aided faculty in book selection, worked out budget allocations for the various subject categories and administrative services in all three libraries. She's also made her own pottery in Colby's pottery studio, where she says she'll continue creating her pieces and giving lessons to students. Her safety study of the studio created a new location and safer venting system for kilns--just a couple of other ways Muehlner has shaped the College over the past two decades.
Students, alumni and healthcare providers talk depression and
the ways they address it at Colby.
Peace in Phnom Penh
Jim Cousins '75 has found refuge, rejuvination in the still-rebuilding Cambodian capital.
A Liberal Arts Resume
What did successful alumni in the business world study at Colby?
8 Mile High
With Eminem on his client list, entertainment lawyer Randall Cutler '91 is all about hip hop.
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