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SMC library broadens academic connections

What do Harvard, Yale and Columbia University have in common? Yes, they’re Ivy League schools, but each is also tied to Southwestern Michigan College. So are Johns Hopkins, the National Institutes of Health, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, National Defense University, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fordham Law School, Fermilab Library, George Washington University and Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. Thanks to inter-library loans, those are some borrowers of SMC books.

It’s a two-way street, of course. SMC’s Fred L. Mathews Library has, in turn, borrowed books from Texas A&M, University of Notre Dame, Chrysler Museum of Art, William and Mary, the Library of Michigan, San Diego Public Library, Library of Congress and Fairbanks, Alaska’s, North Shore Borough Library.

 “We are experiencing more of this, because nobody can have everything,” said Jennifer Zimmer, SMC’s reference librarian. “It could be a book on any given topic they just don’t happen to have and we do. A couple of times we have had requests on Round Oak Stove Co., which we have because we’re in Dowagiac. One book Harvard borrowed from us recently was on collage techniques. We handle 20 to 25 requests per month year-round, and often more during an active semester. It’s yet another way that our students have access to broader sources of knowledge and experience than you might expect.”

Zimmer, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, taught high school English and theatre in Battle Creek before attaining her master’s degree in library science from Wayne State University. She joined SMC’s library six years ago as a part-time reference librarian and has been promoted twice to fulltime reference librarian and to coordinator of library services, working closely with Director of Library Services Colleen Welsch.

Zimmer’s favorite go-to libraries to borrow are Ann Arbor District Library, Jackson District Library, Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Bartholomew County Public Library in Columbus, Ind. (one of the few which loans audio books), Indiana University South Bend and Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library.

“IUSB is one of my favorites because it has a longer lending period,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer started not long after 2011’s renovation made the library more interactive — not just technologically, but as a campus hub conducive to collaborative learning and socializing, with free tutoring services also based in the library area.

The former traditional hushed space occupied by tall book stacks with group study relegated to closed, windowless rooms, was transformed into a vibrant, noisier space with increased usage, landing the library in the Planning for Higher Education Journal as a “case study for creating an active library.”