A central library for independent colleges

Mellon grant will fund Appalachian College Association Central Library

BEREA, Ky.-
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will provide $l,050,000 to the Appalachian College Association (ACA) to help fund the start-up costs for a central library for colleges in Appalachia. This library, the first of its kind in the region for independent colleges, will provide much-needed library resources to small, private colleges in the mountains of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The ACA is a consortium of 33 small, private, liberal arts colleges in those states.

Putting a modern twist on the subscription library concept introduced by Benjamin Franklin in 1731, the Central Library will operate electronically. Each school will pay dues to access the collections through the World Wide Web.

Thanks to the cost savings that result from central purchasing and cooperation among the participating schools, the ACA projects more than a 10-to-1 return on investment for the grant. Dr. Tony Krug, dean of library services at Carson-Newman College and director of the library project, said the Central Library also should make back far more than the original investment each year in savings.

"The students at the ACA colleges get affordable, individualized educations," Krug said. "But that means less money for resources, and libraries are expensive. Book vendors usually start their prices at a rate for 5,000 full-time equivalent students. Our biggest school has roughly 3,000 students, and many have enrollments in the hundreds."

Krug said the Central Library will give schools the benefits of pooling their resources together for volume buying and sharing collections.

"If a collection costs $5,000, all 33 schools can share that collection, instead of spending $165,000 for each of them to have a collection," Krug said.

Another advantage is what Krug called "the multiplier effect."

"If a student in Virginia returns a checked-out book, a nanosecond later, a student in North Carolina could check out the same book," Krug said. "This isn't just about economies of scale. It's a wise use of money."

Servers in Berea, Ky., will host the collections, with staff located at Carson-Newman in Jefferson City, Tenn., a more central location for ACA schools.

The concept for the Central Library has been evolving since 1997, when another Mellon grant introduced ACA libraries to electronic library resources. A steering committee for that grant brought together library personnel from each school.

Brown, the ACA president, observed the camaraderie and increased interactivity between college libraries and suggested a collaborative venture. Work began on a written proposal in fall 2000.

Krug said the Central Library also helps to advance the vision of Dr. John B. Stephenson, president of Berea College from 1984 to 1994. He originated the program which has become the ACA.

"Stephenson said that there were two challenges to being a professor in Appalachia," Krug said. "One was the difficulty of getting out to meet with professional colleagues. The ACA has gone a long way in taking care of that by bringing many professional meetings into the region and funding faculty research at major universities."

The other difficulty was the lack of access to academic literature.

"We're now leveraging our resources in a collaborative, cooperative effort," Krug said.

Brown added, "This project will greatly help our colleges in their efforts to prepare strong leaders for the future of our region."

The ACA member colleges are Alice Lloyd, Berea, Campbellsville, Cumberland, Kentucky Christian, Lindsey Wilson, Pikeville and Union in Kentucky; Lees-McRae, Mars Hill, Montreat, and Warren Wilson in North Carolina; Bryan, Carson-Newman, King, Lee, Lincoln Memorial, Maryville, Milligan, Tennessee Wesleyan, Tusculum, and the University of the South in Tennessee; Bluefield, Emory & Henry, Ferrum, and Virginia Intermont in Virginia; and Alderson-Broaddus, Bethany, Davis & Elkins, Ohio Valley, University of Charleston, West Virginia Wesleyan, and Wheeling Jesuit in West Virginia.

Note: Maryville College will begin availability of this service Summer 2002. For further information, contact Ms. Chris Nugent, (865) 981-8257.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester is 1,168.