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NGCSU's new library adds e-books, coffee shop and more of everything else

Grand opening is Tuesday; classes start Wednesday

POSTED: August 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Teodoro Gayosso, right, takes a ceiling tile from Apolinar Gutierrez so the tile can be resized at the new North Georgia College & State University library. Workers were finishing final details for the new school year.

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A library nearly the length of a football field will have its grand opening today at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

Under construction since February 2007, the 88,600-square-foot Library Technology Center will open its doors to students and Lumpkin County residents before classes start Wednesday. The three-story building will replace the school’s Stewart Library, which was built in 1971.

Shawn Tonner, director of library services, said Stewart Library met the military college and university’s needs until the past eight years, when enrollment exceeded the library’s capacity. With 43 computers, she said the aging library also was lagging in the technology field.

Tonner said the new $18 million Library Technology Center is much more than a library with 150,000 books. It also houses 200 computers, 50,000 electronic books available to students online, a coffee shop, 25 group study rooms, a writing center for peer editing and the Center of Teaching and Learning Excellence.

"What we’re trying to do is create a space where a person with a curiosity can walk in and satisfy that curiosity," she said.

Although Tonner said everyone still loves traditional books, online titles will give students easy access to text and additional learning tools. Online books allow students to highlight words or pages and use links to find word definitions as they read.

"If our students are in Valdosta or Iraq, they can still get to these electronic books," she said. "Students are anywhere, any place these days."

Scott Marshall, coordinator of instructional technology support, said several library rooms are equipped with SMART Boards, the modern version of dry-erase boards. Marshall said the flat-screen SMART Boards can be used simultaneously for high-definition video conferences that simulate corporate conferences in the work force.

Microphones are in the ceilings of library rooms with SMART Boards, and video cameras are above the screen, allowing students to engage in telepresence conferencing, which simulates eye-to-eye contact between participants in various locations.

"In the workplace, videoconferencing is finally hitting its stride," Marshall said. "In the last few years, videoconferencing has really taken off."

The SMART Boards also allow students to hook up their laptop computers to the interactive board. Using colored electronic pens, students can edit presentations, explain diagrams and interpret data, and then save the marked copies on their computers.

The Center of Teaching and Learning Excellence is on the third floor, which offers an eagle-eye view of the North Georgia College & State University campus.

At the teaching and learning center, students and faculty can access the technology and assistance necessary to implement new approaches to teaching or projects. For example, to give students more examples of subjects studied in class, Marshall said math professors will be able to make videos that explain calculus problems to students. He said physical therapy students also can create videos of specific exercises patients can perform.

On the first floor, a high-tech classroom has the capability for nursing students to take classes by teleconference with their peers at Gainesville State College and Lanier Technical College. The classroom also allows students to participate in lectures or hear speakers talk from as far away as Europe and Asia.

On the second floor an open classroom, at first glance, seems to have no teaching tools save for a white board, table and chairs. But with a few clicks of a button, the blinds are drawn and a projector and screen emerge from the ceiling.

"When (the technology is) not needed, it’s tucked away. But when it is needed, it comes out of the ceiling tiles," Marshall said.

At the request of students, Tonner said the library will expand its hours from 86 hours per week to 96 hours per week beginning Oct. 1. The library is open seven days a week.



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