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Celebrating 47 years: Odum Library’s past, present and future

It rises from the palm trees like a colonial fortress, two-toned against the blue sky. Overlooking the clay-tiled roofs of every other building on campus, Odum Library guards over 550,000 bound volumes and is one of VSU’s largest buildings.

Last week was National Library Week, and the stars aligned so that Odum Library also celebrated its 47th birthday on April 11.

Free cupcakes, pins and party hats brought in the celebration of the library’s construction in 1972.

The library wasn’t christened Odum Library until 1990, when the Board of Regents honored retired English professor Gertrude Gilmer Odum, who amassed a considerable sum of money throughout 44 years of teaching.

“She was not a wealthy woman, but she was thrifty,” said Deborah Davis, director of Archives and Special Collections at VSU. “She saved up a whole lot of money and wound up giving one or two million dollars to the university.”

The Odum Library you see today, however, is not how Odum looked at its dedication in 1972. In fact, Powell Hall now rests in the library’s original location.

When first built, the library was only about 85,000 square feet, quickly becoming too small to accommodate VSU’s growing student body, which increased when VSU became coeducational in 1950 and integrated in 1963.

Odum Library as it appeared in 1972. Although it may look identical today, the 2004 addition doubled space in the library and added a fourth floor.

So, in 2004, a $14.2 million addition added approximately 100,000 square feet to the preexisting library, doubling usable space.

Davis said that this space was not only necessary to accommodate books but also a growing need for a community-oriented space for students to spend their time.

“Students need a place to come to study, a place to come to hang out,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of people that come just to hang out. For a while, they were calling it Club Odum because so many students hung out.”

Looking around Odum Library today, one may see a similar situation. The newly-built, modern Academic Support Center has provided students with a more open, social space, as opposed to the rows of isolated desks in the older sections.

But with an increasing number of student needs being met and so much information being easily accessible online, is it possible that Odum Library could be at risk of losing books and quiet in favor of computers and chatting?

Livi Côté, a senior psychology major, spends her time in the library as a tutor at the ASC. When she isn’t working, she is still at the ASC studying or socializing.

“It’s a very social dynamic in this room,” Côté said. “People will stop to talk to you, but it feels more academically focused.”

This sentiment was echoed by her peers, who enjoy the potential for social interaction the library affords, as well as the ability to find a good spot to study.

“I feel like I get more done here than anywhere else,” Austin Danielski, a junior history major, said. “I have my nooks that I go to, but if I’m feeling social, I usually come in here.”

Odum Library is doing the best it can to keep up with the modern world. Its New Media Center has embraced modernity and features a recording studio, 3D printer and technology rental service.

Many historical documents and professional journals have moved online, but according to Samantha Paul, a reference and virtual services librarian, no one can resist the allure of a good book.

“Times are changing a lot, and we’re kind of balancing what students want from the library, which is part of the reason the [ASC] renovation occurred,” Paul said. “But we find that students really love print books, still.”

With that in mind, it seems that Odum Library’s future is as bright as the students it serves.

Written by Patrick Barry, Staff Writer. Photos courtesy of Valdosta State University.

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