Thrift Library Enters Academic Year with New Director, Enhancements for AU Community
For Dr. Melanie Croft, a love of reading and learning from an early age started her on a natural progression that led her to her current role as Director of Library Services at Anderson University.
“I think the love of reading began when I was a kid. I lived in the library,” she said. “When I was really young, we lived in a tiny town in Northern California—500 people—and we had a one-room public library that was open maybe two days a week. I love learning and so it was a natural evolution. I was an elementary teacher, then I went into library science, was a high school librarian, a district librarian and a professor and now I’m here.”
Dr. Croft earned a BS in Liberal Studies from San Diego Christian College; an MA in Education in Teaching, Learning and Technology from Point Loma Nazarene University; an MA in Education, School Librarianship from Azusa Pacific University; and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Liberty University.
Prior to coming to Anderson, Dr. Croft served on faculty at the University of West Georgia and Fresno Pacific University. She was also Coordinator of Learning Resources as well as Library Media Specialist for a school district in California. She is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Library Association, Association of Christian Librarians and the South Carolina Association of School Librarians. She has received numerous academic and professional honors and has published various articles in her field.
Thrift Library continues to support the needs of Anderson University students, faculty and staff for comprehensive services to aid in research. Added to those services are a mobile app and a 24/7 online librarian.
A new self checkout mobile app, AU Thrift Library, offered through Meescan, is streamlining the checkout process while offering a one-stop hub for Thrift Library’s online resources. And while Thrift Library’s website has always been available 24/7, patrons can now access professional librarians around the clock through Chatstaff.
According to Dr. Croft, Thrift Library continues to provide guidance to students all along their academic journey. But of course there’s more to students researching online than just going to a search engine.
“Even though they’re considered digital natives because they grew up on devices, that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to find the right kind of information, so that’s our job—to teach them how to do that,” she said. “What we teach is information and media literacy, which is a great need now, especially with generative AI (Artificial Intelligence) on the scene. Students more than ever now need to be taught how to discern what is real and what is not real online, not just what is going to meet your information needs. Where did that information come from? Can it be trusted? Should you use it? Then, how do you use it and give credit for it? There’s so many dimensions to it now, there’s so much online—it’s just made life more complicated. It’s easier to get to it but learning how to use it all is complicated and requires quite a bit of instruction.”
Dr. Croft noted that Thrift Library plans to launch an instructional resource called Library DIY that includes video tutorials to help students and faculty navigate research projects and papers. The tutorials will deal with scholarly research, citing sources and using APA (American Psychological Association) style and other styles in writing.
“It’s really just a lot of self-directed learning, so that if they are able to take care of the basics themselves. It’s just foundational stuff they need to know about library research. Then when they work with our librarians on consultations, which we are offering digitally or in-person. We can work on the more advanced things with them,” she said. “My goal has been to simplify everything, because there is information overload in the world now. I want to put what you would actually need. Just a list of links, the hours and the search tools.”
Thrift Library has also signed new agreements that improve resource sharing with other libraries. Dr. Croft says Anderson University has signed reciprocal borrowing agreements with the Association of Christian Librarians and ATLA—both Christian library organizations.
“Now all of our students, faculty and staff have the ability to visit institutions that belong to these programs all over the United States. We’re working on expanding access to what’s available out there,” she said. “We of course have access through all of the academic libraries in South Carolina.”
While books remain an important part of Thrift Library, digital assets are a high priority.
“Since I got here I started working on looking at all of our database subscriptions, which is the biggest part of our budget—all those online resources—reprioritizing those, because we have so many new doctoral programs. We needed more scholarly research types of sources. We spent some time going through what we already had and if it wasn’t being used, we let it go,” she said. “We invested in quite a lot of good resources and some that the professors had been requesting. That’s been a great change, because we were doing a lot of interlibrary loan requests where people would find the abstract to something and then have to request it, which showed that we needed more robust databases.”
Thrift Library is also part of a local group of public and academic libraries called OPAL (Oconee, Pickens, Anderson Libraries). The directors of each of these libraries meet periodically to collaborate on shared professional development opportunities, promotional events, and how to increase access and usage of our libraries.
OPAL organizes events throughout the year, including an upcoming discussion and book signing co-sponsored by Thrift Library, with author Ron Rash for his new book, The Caretaker, October 6, 2023, hosted by the Pickens County Library System at Hampton Memorial Library in Easley, South Carolina.
While looking to the future, Thrift Library is also honoring the past, preserving more than a hundred years of Anderson’s history in an archive. Efforts are underway to organize donated items and other things that document the university’s history.
“Kenzie Barnett, who was an AU graduate, graduated with a degree in History two years ago, got her library degree and she’s now our official archivist,” she said. “She’s working on getting all of that organized, and eventually it will be put online where some things can be accessed digitally. There are photos, university newspapers, newspaper clippings about AU, yearbooks, programs from concerts and theatre productions—basically anything tied to the history of AU.” Dr. Croft noted that the collection even includes an electronic piano once used by Grammy Award-winning artist Johnny Mann, the namesake of the Commercial Music center in the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University.
All of the Thrift Library resources are available at their website.