Annual Report 2017-18

This annual report showcases our progress and achievements.

Table of Contents

Two students studying together at a table in library.

Many students find a comfortable place to study together in the libraries


We engaged in a number of projects to refresh and transform our library spaces.

Graduate Study Commons

We reached out to WMU graduate students about how the libraries could support their success at WMU. We discovered their desire for a space specifically designed for their level of research and academic workloads.

We moved the map collection to the second floor and transformed the space into a Graduate Student Commons. The refreshed space is intended to provide a welcoming, comfortable place for graduate students to work, research, and collaborate. The space opened in August 2018.

Chairs facing windows in Graduate Student Commons on third floor of Waldo Library.  Study pods in Graduate Student Commons on third floor of Waldo Library.

  • Study rooms for collaboration and group work
  • Private, individual study areas for intensive work
  • Comfortable seating and flexible work surfaces
  • Advanced computer stations with data analysis and statistical software packages

Virtual Reality Lab

In collaboration with the Office of Information Technology, we opened a Virtual Reality Lab in Waldo Library.

The lab features seven workstations, 38 titles, and knowledgeable staff to help people get started. We have offered several VR content creation workshops for WMU faculty and students to learn about VR and its applications in the classroom.

In addition to workshops, the lab has hosted events for campus and community organizations including All Things Possible, Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation, the IT Girl Conference and the Autism Center of Excellence.

Student playing virtual reality in Waldo Library.  Virtual Reality workshop at Waldo Library.  Person trying virtual reality at Waldo Library.  Student wearing virtual reality goggles.

Study Room Upgrades

Group study room

A collaborative study room in the Swain Education Library

Group study spaces are in high demand at all our locations. To meet this demand, we have enhanced and expanded our group study rooms at Waldo Library, Swain Education Library, and Maybee Music and Dance Library. We converted underutilized spaces to create two additional study rooms and upgraded technology by adding monitors to four existing rooms.


This fall we welcomed new partners into Waldo Library. The WMU Makerspace offered by the Innovation Club opened in a newly-refreshed space in Waldo Library.

Facilities Use (All Locations)

  • Total Visitors 616,649
  • Total operating Hours 12,747
  • Questions Answered 55,958
  • Public Computer Stations 235
  • Student Printing (pages) 2.28 million

Improved Accessibility

We want all library users to easily access our collections and navigate our facilities. We improved accessibility by changing the layout of our collections and content on our website.


We worked with student Taylor Arndt to assess our website and databases and facilities. Taylor’s assessment identified several areas that were problematic for people using screen readers to navigate our website and databases. We implemented several changes to the website to make it more accessible, including replacing PDFs with web pages that are screen reader-friendly, improving captions for images and videos and streamlining navigation.   

Physical Collections

Emty shelves at Waldo Library.


Tables and chairs in study space at Waldo Library.


Taylor also identified challenges that blind or low vision users may have navigating our facilities, including narrow aisles and walkways and inconsistent signage. We created wider aisles by consolidating shelving and transferring lower-use items to storage. These shelving changes have also helped us create more space for collaboration and individual study on the first floor. Items in storage are easily accessible and can be delivered to any location with next business day service.

Collections Summary

  • Books (print & electronic) 2,056,511
    Student helping a patron at library service desk.

    Students visit one Service Desk for help with library services and resources

  • Journals and Serials 143,319
  • Databases 657
  • Audio 74,412
  • Visual Materials 133,219
  • Electronic Reserve Items 5,777

Collections Use

  • Print Loans and eBook Uses 1,075,114
  • Online Article Downloads 1,123,522
  • Print Reserve Loans 14,223
  • ILL and Document Delivery Requests Fulfilled 13,872
  • Total Loans to Other Libraries 22,237


First Year Experience

First-year students learning about the library.

First-year students learn about the library early in the semester

New students enrolled in the WMU First-Year Seminar course are welcomed into the library for a special orientation activity. The students work in groups to navigate Waldo Library, using smart phones and online interactive tools to log their discoveries. This high-tech engagement activity introduced 39 groups of first-year students to library spaces and services that can help them succeed, such as knowing where to ask for help and finding a favorite study space.

The program also involves our front-line student employees, who act as welcome ambassadors. These highly trained student employees work alongside librarians and professional staff to engage with new students as peers and mentors, showing them what the library has to offer and leaving the students with specific invitations to come back to the library to explore.

Open Educational Resources (OER) Hand pulling out a textbook from shelf.

Textbooks have been rising in price more than inflation, even at a higher rate than medical costs. This makes it difficult for many students to purchase them, sometimes resulting in students being unprepared or getting lower grades or taking fewer classes to contain costs. Studies have shown that textbook costs can be a barrier to retaining students. 

To help, we have started a textbook purchase program. Textbooks for high enrollment introductory courses are placed on reserve for student use. In the last year, we saved our students up to $237,000 through this program.  

This year we are taking things a step farther and embarking on an Open Education Resources (OERs) faculty awareness campaign. We have joined the Open Textbook Network, to help us facilitate workshops and bring in speakers to introduce open textbooks and other open resources to our campus. OERs provide no cost or low cost alternatives to expensive textbooks. Open textbooks are not only available for free online (and in print for the cost of printing), they can also be revised and adapted to individual course needs.

WMU Libraries local history expert featured on PBS series 

Lynn Houghton regional history collection curator.

Our WMU Libraries regional history curator, Lynn Houghton, was featured on the PBS series, ‘10’ That Changed America. Lynn shared her expert knowledge of local history to provide background on the history, and significance, of the Kalamazoo Mall. The PBS series highlighted not only the unique history of downtown Kalamazoo, but also the unique expertise available at WMU Libraries.


Digital Projects

Our digital projects team works to preserve the past and make our unique materials globally accessible online. Using digital surrogates, scholars and students can study at their convenience and without damage to the originals.

Two student employees in Special Collections reviewing a World War 2 scrapbook.

Paige Bailey and Ashley Barch,  student employees in Special Collections, review a WWII scrapbook before digitization

Over the past year, we have digitally preserved WMU archival materials including music performances and oral histories from tape, WMU photographs, presidents’ addresses and student theses and dissertations. Ongoing work to digitize suitable rare books and manuscripts has included scanning and translating hundreds of personal narratives from World War I and II. The new "WWI and II: Personal Narratives" collection includes over 600 letters and postcards (received and sent), three photo albums and a scrapbook from two World War I soldiers.

Staff member scanning a document.   World War 2 letter.   Staff member helping a patron look up World War 2 materials on computer.

WWI and II: Personal Narratives

Paul Pommer, a native of Hesse, Germany, served as a soldier in World War I and created a meticulously organized scrapbook of his experience during WWI. Pommer saved the letters he received and later collected the letters he sent others during WWI. This collection provides deeper insights into the daily routines of the soldiers and life on the home front. His scrapbook physically resides in our Special Collections and is available online for use in classes and for individual research projects both at WMU and beyond. 

Our digital projects team collaborated with the history department to create this collection in recognition of the centenary of World War I. The project also offered two WMU students an experiential learning experience, helping them gain valuable experience in digitization and translation of primary documents.

Melissa Ewing, a University Studies major, helped scan, organize, and process materials in the collection. Jacob Wolf, a German and Public History major, earned credit through an independent study project by translating the letters from German to English and creating searchable data for each item.

Our digital project team, made up of staff from the Research Services and Resource Management units, is making these resources available while providing students with one of a kind research opportunities and new skills to take into their future careers.

Program Statistics   User Services staff person helping two students.

  • Instructional Sessions 386
  • Digital Items Created 27,135
  • ScholarWorks Items Added 6,838
  • ScholarWorks Downloads (2017-2018) 1,677,900
  • ScholarWorks Downloads (2011-2018) 6,244,187


Customer Service Retreat

We value outstanding customer service because we know it is an important part of users’ experience in the Libraries.

To build consensus, we held a customer service retreat for our employees and developed standards for library customer service. With the help of two facilitators from the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services, we identified our strengths, values, and opportunities for improvement. We will use our standards to ensure that users have an outstanding experience at WMU Libraries.

Student Employee Scholarships

In April 2018, the University Libraries awarded four $1000 scholarships to outstanding student employees. The annual scholarship is awarded based on an application essay and supervisor recommendation.

Group of 2018 scholarship recipients.   Student employee scholarship recipient.

2018 Library Student Employee Scholarship Recipients

  • Yizhou Chen, User Services, Waldo Library
  • Lindsey Hammell, User Services, Education Library
  • Hadlee Robinson, Office of the Dean, Waldo Library
  • Ogden Wright, User Services, Waldo Library

Interview with Mary O'Kelly, Associate Dean

Mary O'Kelly associate dean for education and user services

Mary O’Kelly started as Associate Dean for Education and User Services in August 2017. Over the past year, Mary has introduced new ideas and energy to the User Services and Instruction and Outreach departments. We sat down with Mary to learn more about her first year at WMU Libraries.

What do you think are the three most important trends in Libraries right now?

Modern libraries are fast-moving places. New and better technologies are quickly changing the way we approach the entire life-cycle of the collections. This includes the areas I work most closely with: instruction, outreach, and service. We regularly ask ourselves how these new technologies influence the way people use our services and our collections.

Easy web access has shifted some of our services online, such as our online chat reference service and new e-learning tutorials and modules. That online convenience is also influencing our work with textbook affordability. We’re doing that by encouraging and supporting open educational resources and advocating for more open access to published materials. Digital materials can be ephemeral, though, which is why we’re putting considerable effort into curating and preserving the physical collections we have and making those collections available online.

What changes have happened in the libraries during your first year?

Oh, this has been a very busy year! When I arrived last summer we were in the middle of making some really noticeable refinements to Waldo Library. There is new comfortable furniture, white boards, mobile display monitors, fresh paint, new signs, wider aisles for accessibility – the list goes on. We also added a virtual reality lab, a maker space, new group study rooms, and have just opened a completely remodeled graduate student commons on the third floor of Waldo Library. It’s an exciting time in the libraries.

What change do you think has made the biggest impact?

I think the change that has positively affected the campus most is aligning our library departments with the libraries’ and university’s strategic priorities. For example, our service desk staff now belong to one department, with a clear path for people to take when they come in to any of our libraries for help. Changes like that directly support our mission to empower discovery and exploration. We also have hired for several faculty and staff into new roles that are helping us with service, digitization, metadata, electronic resources, and expanded evening and weekend staffing.

Have you found a favorite spot on campus? If so, where? 

 I just love the greenhouses. I discovered them earlier this summer, and I know already that they’ll be a favorite spot for me to soak in a bit of green during those dark winter days.

What do you do for fun?

My husband and I spend most weekends on Lake Allegan, watching the eagles, egrets, and hummingbirds. I love to garden and am learning how to garden in a way that preserves habitat for birds and wildlife; most of my previous gardens were your typical sculpted suburban garden. I’m really enjoying getting to know native plants. A less quiet activity involves a recent birthday gift. I received a practice chanter and am starting to learn the bagpipes. That one’s tough. If anyone knows of bagpipers in the Kalamazoo area, let me know. I could use the help. (I can make a nifty duck call, I must say. Fortunately, the hummingbirds ignore it.)

recent Annual Report

2016-17 Annual Report

Student with a book sitting at a table in Waldo Library.