If you've ever gotten lost or frustrated in the Stacks at Hodges Library, help is at hand.
Hodges now offers StackMap, a program that displays a map highlighting the shelf on which a desired book is stored during a search in the library catalog.
David Atkins, Head of Resource Sharing and Document Delivery at Hodges, is to thank for this program. He discovered the product at an American Library Association conference over a year ago and has been working with fellow librarians and staff to introduce it at UT. StackMap has been available for more than a month and early reports show that it is used in one out of every three searches in the library catalog to find a book.
According to Atkins, the way that Hodges Library is laid out makes it "doubly difficult" for students to find books unaided. Students have reported in surveys that they spend up to 20 to 30 minutes trying to locate a book in the Stacks.
"Just finding a book with the Library of Congress classification is not easy. And then you ... compound that fact by having hundreds and hundreds of thousands of books in shelves that aren't really laid out that logically. You could be searching for a call number and then you realize you need to be on the totally opposite end of the floor," Atkins said. "If you've ever been on the fourth floor in particular—that floor is huge."
Many students can offer stories confirming the labyrinthine nature of the library. Daysha Henderson, freshman in forestry, said she once spent 30 minutes looking for what she needed. Her trouble stemmed from confusion concerning the organization of the library.
"(Finding something) is complicated, very, very complicated. It goes by numbers or something ... you have to find a letter first, but then the letters are spread out throughout the floors and then even on the floor it's supposed to be on ... I'm not familiar with the system of how you're supposed to find books," Henderson said.
When Henderson learned of the new StackMap program, she was optimistic it would be helpful, but cautiously so.
"It sounds a bit helpful, yeah. At least you know what floor to be on. But, unless they're telling you, 'As soon as you get off the elevator or the stairs, right, left, straight, this and that,' then it'll still probably take ... a good 15 minutes or so to find it," Henderson said.
Luckily for students that continue to get lost, Atkins has further plans to demystify the library. Atkins said that students will soon be able to look up books and get a map using their smartphones, not only using title, author or subject, but by call number as well. Atkins expects a usable prototype of the system sometime this week.