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Million-Dollar Remodel for the Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

August 04, 2015

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - The Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi serves more than 11,000 students.  It is the campus hub for students to study and conduct research. However, the current design does not meet the needs of the 21st century learner.  

“Some of our furniture dates back to the 1970’s and student study spaces are not conducive to laptops or iPads,” said Dr. Catherine Rudowsky, Director of the Mary and Jeff Bell Library. “We are now finally in a position where we can overhaul the look and design of the library to make it more student-friendly. Our primary focus at the library is our students, and we believe the new design will allow them better access to research materials and services as well as provide a more comfortable environment for extended hours of study.”

Improvements will include flexible work space that consists of mobile tables that would allow students to work collaboratively or individually, desks and chairs with technology-enabled ports to accommodate multiple mobile devices, and large monitors wired to allow students to mirror information from their laptop or mobile device with a study group. Additionally, the reference desk will be designed to accommodate in-depth research consultations individually or in small groups, and the circulation desk will be strategically moved to better serve students.

The total cost for the remodel is $1.35 million. The money for this comprehensive redesign was accumulated over a number of years from library student fees. This first phase remodel is underway and is expected to be complete by the end of October 2015. 

The renovations are just part of the ongoing improvements and modernization plans at the library. Currently, library staff is in the process of digitizing and cataloging our Conrad Blucher Surveying Collection (CBSC), which was donated to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi by the Blucher family. It was originally assembled by three generations of Nueces County surveyors and contains a voluminous number of surveying documents covering over a century of South Texas development (1840s-1950s.) The CBSC enhances the University’s Geographic Information Science Program, as well as serves the needs of the larger community. The collection contains thousands of maps, notes, diagrams, charts, and related historical documents that were only available by in-person viewing. The digitization process will not only allow remote access to the valuable collection, but will also ensure preservation.

The Bell Library is also proud to house the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, which were donated by Dr. Garcia to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 1990 and represent an important time in Mexican American history. Contained in the voluminous archives are correspondence and documents relating to the American G.I. Forum, which Dr. Garcia founded in 1948. The documents provide insight into the challenges, living conditions, and discrimination faced by Mexican American veterans and their families, while also shedding light on Dr. Garcia’s role as a champion of civil rights.

The University is in close contact with Ms. Cecilia Garcia-Akers, Dr. Garcia’s daughter, about plans to expand our display of the collection.  To date, the collection has been featured locally and nationally, as the papers are made available to researchers across the country. Last year, the papers were the focus of a C-SPAN Cities Tour Program. Other documentaries and publications include the Texas Historical Commission’s “Hispanic Texans Journey from Empire to Democracy,” books (including “Justice for My People,” “Class Apart,” and “The Longoria Affair”), articles, brochures, and exhibits. The Special Collections staff also coordinates interviews and speeches at schools ranging from elementary to the university level.

The public and students are welcome to view the collections, which are showcased through permanent and regularly rotating displays at the Mary and Jeff Bell Library on the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi campus.

The next phase of library expansion will include increasing square footage, part of which would include modernizing and expanding exhibit space.