Member Spotlight - James White Library


The James White Library: A Vibrant Space in a Tranquil Setting
By: Sarah Kimakwa MLIS, M.B.A
Marketing and Reference Librarian
James White Library
Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI.

The James White Library (JWL) is the knowledge hub of Andrews University, serving a student population of over 6,000 both on- and off-campus, locally and around the globe. Located in the serene, agricultural region of southwest Michigan along the shores of the St. Joseph River in Oronoko Charter Township, the JWL enjoys easy access to major highways—situated just 12 miles south of I-94, 22 miles north I-80, within earshot of US-31—and is 22 miles from the shores of Lake Michigan. Named after James Springer White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the current library building was constructed in 1962 and an addition was built in 1978.

The JWL has three floors with a total area of 100,000 square feet and a collection of over 1.2 million items. In addition to the main building near the center of campus, there are two branch libraries on campus: the Architecture Resource Center (ARC) is housed in the Department of Architecture and Music Materials Center (MMC) is housed in the Department of Music, allowing students’ easy access to those specialized resources. The JWL is also home to the Center for Adventist Research (CAR) and the University Archives, two organizations that specialize in documenting and preserving our denomination’s and university’s history.

The James White Library currently employs 17 librarians, 16 staff members, and an average of 70 student workers. We intentionally hire a diverse staff to match the diversity of our patrons, and visitors to the JWL will hear a multitude of languages spoken at the circulation desk. According to U.S. News & World Report article ("Campus Ethnic Diversity," 2015) Andrews University is tied for seventh in the nation for largest international population with a student body comprised of people from over 98 countries and tied for second for campus diversity ("Most International Students," 2015). We hire people who are customer-focused, and we train our staff to always aspire to outstanding service so that our patrons enjoy an excellent user experience. We want the JWL to feel like a one-stop shop for Andrews students. They can do their research, have group study sessions, print papers, scan documents, and grab a snack all under one roof. In 2014 we added a large-format printer to our Multimedia Center, enabling students to print posters for projects and presentations.  

The Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) is known for its commitment to high-quality education, and has founded schools and colleges around the world. As a flagship institution of the SDA Church, Andrews plays a key role in providing help and support to other denominational schools. The JWL organizes the Services to Adventist International Libraries (SAIL) program, which provides free books, subscriptions to periodicals, and book ordering services to schools around the world. The service was established in 1995 by Keith Clouten the former James White Library director who saw the challenges that many of our international schools were facing in getting access to books and journals—affordability, lack of credit with U.S. suppliers, and problems with postal services and customs. From small beginnings with just four member libraries, the SAIL program has grown rapidly and now provides books, periodicals, booklists, and supplies to more than 55 member institutions in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. Since its inception, SAIL has shipped over 17,000 books valued at $700,000 to member libraries. Additionally, the program has purchased over $150,000 worth of new books at a substantial discount. SAIL members have also benefited through 369 discounted journal subscriptions, which the institutions would otherwise not be able to access. It is amazing how our “small” contribution has made a big impact in other people’s lives. Here are a few testimonies of how SAIL has helped:

“Without SAIL’s intervention, the University wouldn’t have had the didactic material necessary to fulfill its mission …” Lucile Sabas - Consendai University, Yaoundé Cameroon.

“SAIL has enhanced our collection by donations of core textbooks in all subject areas… through this collaborative effort our periodical collection was judged ‘one of the best in tertiary institutions in Ghana’ … we received guidance and assistance for the purchase of our cataloging software (MARC MAGICIAN), which has enhanced information provision in the library.” Mrs. Vida Norley Mensah, Valley View University, Ghana.

“One cannot appreciate any service being rendered without reflection on the past. Turning our clock backwards to the pre-SAIL era, Babcock University is really appreciative of the services of SAIL. SAIL has been supplying our journals which has reduced loss through mail…” Vincent Unegbu, Babcock University, Nigeria.

SAIL receives donations from a variety of supporters, including discarded materials or books from the James White Library. The program employs a part-time staff and student worker who processes requests, ship materials, and organizes our inventory. We feel much honored to be associated with a service that directly impacts people’s lives around the world. 

The Architecture Resource Center is the official worldwide repository of design and human studies by the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), an international interdisciplinary association for design professionals. This interdisciplinary collection holds books, monographs, series, journals, EDRA proceedings, documents, technical papers, and multimedia materials supporting research within the discipline of environment and behavior. The collection has been developed over the past thirty-five years and is the most comprehensive in the world. There are more than 15,000 titles currently held in the ARC. This collection is updated yearly as part of the EDRA book display at the annual conference. Every year the ARC librarian, Kathy Demsky, and architecture students attend the EDRA conference where they network and acquire more materials, (ARC).

The James White Library holds a rich and unique collection of materials. In 2014 JWL lent 7,966 individual items both through MelCat and Interlibrary Loan services. Our Religion materials accounted for 39% of all our MelCat loans and 43% of all our traditional Interlibrary Loans. Another highly used subject is our Medicine collection which accounted for 5% of all MelCat loans and 5.8% of all ILLs. According Jason St. Clair, our Patron Services Librarian, our books travel as far as Australia and Europe (St. Clair, 2015).  

The James White Library also serves as a safe haven for students from the local elementary and high schools who come to do their homework as they wait for their parents to get off work. This helps keep the children in our community off the streets and starts them on a path of learning and exploration. Many of our patrons come with their young children to utilize the children’s section of our collection, and the children read age-appropriate books while their parents study and do research.

Worldwide, libraries and the librarianship profession are facing a time of great challenges and opportunities in this digital era where use of information technology and knowledge is more widespread than ever before. Today’s library users are very different from library patrons of the past. Libraries were a “collection of books used for reading or study”(Library, 2015) and while this definition still holds, it has certainly expanded over the years. The Encyclopedia Britannica says, “The library and its role has changed from being places that keep business, legal, historical, and religious records of civilization. The library has emerged into an organization of information resources and services that do not even require a building.” Learning is now more collaborative and group-focused than ever before. Most libraries are now seen as collaborative learning spaces, social places, research environments, and individual study areas.  Joan Lippincott states in her article “Information Commons are popular with millennial (also called net generation) students, who often work in groups, use technology avidly, and combine their academic and social lives” (Lippincott, 2010).

The James White Library has experienced great changes and challenges over the years. Since its foundation in the late 1800s, the JWL has moved from one location to another, always adapting to patrons’ needs. Initially it was in Battle Creek Michigan, and then it was relocated to Berrien Springs. In 1959 the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary moved from Washington, D.C. to form Andrews University. The current library building has served the patrons well for over fifty years, but there is a need to make changes that will accommodate the current generation of patrons and respond to current trends. Serving today’s patron is not easy—there are “digital natives” who are technologically savvy and “digital settlers and immigrants” who still rely on the traditional delivery methods of the historical library. We attempt to create a balance between the two by catering to this variety of visitors. This has included some major renovation work to the building itself. “We have made several fairly significant changes in an attempt to make The Library even more welcoming,” says Lawrence Onsager, Dean of Libraries.  The library should be an inviting place to visit for our patrons and our employees.

The lobby was the first to receive a makeover, since it is the gateway to the JWL and the first thing people see when they step inside our front doors. The ceiling was lowered and aesthetically appealing carpet and lighting was installed. Space-saving security gates reduce the physical barrier to coming and going from the entryway. Throughout the building, we have remodeled spaces to create a more open environment that allows more light in from the exterior windows, we have included more comfortable, soft seating, and the walls have been repainted with colors to enhance the ambience of the space. Additionally, the instruction lab has been fitted with smart technology and more computers. There are plans to have a café to complete the patron’s experience. The cumulative effect of these changes on the library ambience is tremendous, especially for students who spend a lot of time in the space. “We are happy for the changes,” said one seminary student.

Although part of what we offer to patrons is a great staff and engaging services and programs, our main goal is to ensure that patrons are aware of the materials and resources we have available. To promote the JWL and enhance our social media presence, we hired a marketing librarian in 2013. The marketing librarian has initiated several social media initiatives, including our Facebook page, the Library blog, Wikipedia articles, and an Instagram feed. We also partnered with other on- and off-campus departments to organize events that serve as an outreach to patrons far and near.

In an attempt to bring library services closer to users on our campus, we now have a Mobile Reference Kiosk in the Student Center. A lot has been learned from this experience so far, and our takeaways from launching this program will be shared when our initial assessment is complete.

 “Partnerships can have enormous impact on awareness,” states Megan Humphrey in the book The Library PR High Impact Communications. We believe partnership is key in ensuring that the JWL remains a central focus in our community and university. This year the Library partnered with a local church pastor and the community library to present a Music Lecture Series, “Beethoven and Friends,” where the music librarian engaged attendees with her talents in violin, flute, and other musical instruments. We also held two successful book signing events over the past year—one during National Library Week and another during our university’s Alumni Weekend. The events brought together our community, alumni, faculty and students to share their publishing journeys. As one of the authors, Ms. Wilson, said, “It was good exposure because you get to mix and mingle with other people who are writers.” The Library Dean, Lawrence Onsager, was very satisfied with the results of the event. “We saw students stopping and interacting with the authors and with the alumni, and authors interacting with each other,” said Onsager. “For alumni it was a great time to share information about what they are doing, their scholarship, and an opportunity for other types of networking.” Our library statistics showed that these events brought a record number of patrons into our library compared to any other day of the week.  

During the 2014 annual Summit on Social Consciousness “The Poor Next Door,” the JWL partnered with Andrews’ School of Graduate Studies and Research, the Berrien Springs Community Public Library, and a local nonprofit organization, Digital Bridges, to bring awareness to summit participants of the state of digital and information disparities in Berrien County. We also collected books, educational toys, and diapers to distribute to homeless shelters in the area. When we have a community that is very deserving of help, how can we have so much knowledge and not share with others?

Professional development is critical in any discipline, and the Michigan Library Association has given us a great opportunity in this regard. Our staff are afforded chances to build leadership skills through participation in committees, and we cannot overemphasize the importance of the networking we have gained through MLA membership. As members of MLA, we benefit from discounted goods and services and our ability to share with other libraries has definitely enhanced the services we can offer our patrons.

For more information about the James White Library visit us our website


ARC. May 23, 2011). The Architecture Resource Center: EDRA.   Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

Campus Ethnic Diversity. (2015). U.S. News & World Report.  Retrieved February 8, 2015, from​nal-universities/campus-ethnic-diversity

Library. (2015). Encyclopdedia Brittanica.   Retrieved February 6, 2015, from

Lippincott, J. K. (2010). Information Commons: Meeting Millennials’ Needs. Journal of Library Administration, 50(1), 27-37. doi: 10.1080/01930820903422156

Most International Students. (2015). U.S. News & World Report.  Retrieved February 8, 2015, from

St. Clair, J. (2015). Interlibrary Loan and MelCat Report 2014. In S. Kimakwa (Ed.).




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