Far from the corridors that once demanded reverent silence, Milner Library continues to evolve into a learning laboratory that boasts amenities suited to today’s students.

The library contains more than 1.6 million books, annual foot traffic of almost 685,000, and a staff of 84 to tend to the needs of studious students. What may surprise those unacquainted with Milner is the role technology has come to play in navigating the library’s resources.

Milner receives more than 375,000 visitors on its website, offers a collection of 322,827 e-books, 143,716 electronic journals, and has 17 iPads, 30 laptops, and other electronic devices available for students to check out.

The change from the days of card catalogs and microfiche is in keeping with Illinois State’s strategic plan, Educating Illinois 2013-2018: Individualized Attention, Shared Aspirations, which recognizes the important role Milner Library plays in students’ academic careers. The plan, through strategy 1 of goal 2, encourages continual evolution to meet the needs of today’s students, which is exactly what has occurred in recent years.

Educating Illinois cover 3

Educating Illinois in action: Read more about how Illinois State’s strategic plan is being implemented: EducatingIllinois.IllinoisState.edu.

“Academic libraries are living through a period of rapid change significantly influenced by technological innovation,” said Milner Library Dean Dane Ward. “In such a time, libraries must not simply adopt the latest technologies, but more importantly have the ability to recognize which technologies are needed by their students and faculty.”

Collaboration stations throughout the library have been one way Milner staff have answered a need of students. The stations are outfitted with several cords so that groups can connect laptops, netbooks, tablets, or other devices and share their own screens on a central monitor. A push of a button allows library patrons to switch between devices, giving students the ability to easily multitask and share their findings.

Another innovation has produced benefits for staff as well as students. The recent installation of a laptop kiosk has expedited the process of borrowing a laptop for use while in the library.

Milner's new laptop kiosk

A student uses Milner’s new laptop kiosk.

The kiosk, which dispenses 12 laptops, allows students to borrow computers for up to three hours. Upon returning the laptop, the kiosk removes all data from the previous session and charges the device—making it ready for the next user. The kiosk has been helpful to the staff of Milner Library as well, as it alleviates the need to dedicate time to readying the machines for the next user.

“The technological changes adopted by Milner Library will result from the conversations and collaborations that we have with the members of the Illinois State University community,” Ward said. “I expect that Milner Library will continue to evolve into a carefully and deliberately designed learning lab outside the classroom where students practice and receive assistance with new course content and competencies.”

Steven Barcus can be reached at srbarcu@IllinoisState.edu.