Q&A with Library Dean June Koelker

Mary Couts Burnett Library’s east wing reopened in October with new technology and more seating space. Dean Koelker spoke with us about the upgrade.

June Koelker, Mary Couts Burnett Library, futuristic libraries

Mary Couts Burnett Library dean June Koelker. Photo by Glen Ellman.

Q&A with Library Dean June Koelker

Mary Couts Burnett Library’s east wing reopened in October with new technology and more seating space. Dean Koelker spoke with us about the upgrade.

What do you like best about how the library renovation has turned out?

This is not a generic, nice-looking library but one designed to be part of the TCU campus. You know you are at TCU when you walk through it. The renovation raises the profile for the library and is in keeping with the beauty of the campus.


How will the library function differently?

We will be able to deliver library services much more efficiently. We will regularly retrieve materials from the off campus Library Annex. What will be different is the availability of new services and significantly increased space.


What new capabilities or services does the library offer now?

There will be many more seats, an expanded rare books and archives suite, more group study rooms, a Fab Lab (3D printing), graduate study space, a social space for faculty and graduate students, and media editing suites.


Space was at such a premium in the old library. What improvement have you seen in terms of actual space?

I don’t yet have a number for the new seats, but it will be in the hundreds. Students now can find a place to study anytime, any day…and that’s a big claim to make given the circumstances we had in the past. We used to cram students in the Information Commons into very tight spaces. No more.


Where did TCU draw inspiration for features or elements in the new building?

Architects, campus and library administrators and others tracked new developments with academic library architecture over the course of years. We observed TCU students usage extensively to see the choke points. Anytime we found a conference or a webinar that offered information in this area, one of us would attend. We also had a very accomplished project team.


There is a “knowledge is power” quotation in the library to pair with “knowledge is freedom” in Rees-Jones Hall. How do these phrases represent the library?

Libraries enable learning. Learning leads to knowledge and from there, both freedom and power. Knowledge is key to transforming lives so that individuals and societies grow and create lasting contributions both for those living and for those to come.


What is the role of a library at a university?

Libraries preserve and provide access to the best of a society’s culture (literature, music, art, etc.), which is a goal of most universities. Ancient libraries, such as those at Ephesus or Alexandria remind us of the enduring nature of libraries. Medieval libraries were known for their illuminated manuscripts. Today, university libraries focus on learning for a particular campus community. For example, we have excellent collections about literature and history. By design we have very little material about dentistry or veterinary science but then we aren’t a campus that awards degrees in two areas. A library mirrors the academic nature of its campus.


How does the library fit into TCU’s vision for “The Academy of Tomorrow?”

One of the goals of “The Academy of Tomorrow” is to match the quality of the buildings with the quality of the academic programs. Another goal is to enhance the culture of premier research and creative activity on the TCU campus; the library definitely does this. The sky bridge between Rees Jones Hall and the library physically represent the linking of learning between classroom and library. Beautiful spaces help people envision a future with more possibilities.


Questions by Rick Waters ’98

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