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Gone are the days of frustration when looking for a book in the stacks at the John C. Hodges Library. Patrons, say hello to StackMap.

A team of UT librarians and staff implemented the program this fall, which displays a map along with book information and its location when someone searches for a book in the library’s catalog. The map pinpoints not only the floor, but also the specific shelf range where a book is housed. It also provides directions for getting there.

“Ever since we moved into this building, it’s been a challenge for anybody to find books in our stacks—even our staff,” said David Atkins, associate professor and head of the library’s department for resource sharing and document delivery. “Now, instead of saying, ‘go to the third floor and good luck,’ we can actually send (library users) a copy of the map.”

StackMap works on personal computers and mobile devices. It can be accessed via the library’s homepage. At the top of the page under Books Plus, enter the book title and it will display a location and a map. StackMap does not display online materials, books in the Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine and Music libraries, or in Hoskins storage.

The stacks occupy the third through sixth floors of Hodges Library.

The library staff pursued StackMap as a result of feedback from library users.

“In surveys, a common complaint from students, faculty, anybody, was they had a hard time finding anything,” Atkins said. “A person would sometimes take twenty to thirty minutes just to find one book in the stacks.”

The library staff has now connected a book’s call number to a map through the technology of a small company in Palo Alto, California.

The project was a year and a half in the making. Atkins first learned of StackMap at an American Library Association Conference. Several universities use the program, including Appalachian State University in North Carolina and the University of Toronto in Canada.

Library staffers are tracking usage of StackMap. They anticipate usage will jump around midterms.

Atkins thanked students in particular for speaking up about the need for a better search function in the library. If they had not, StackMaps might never have happened.

“I encourage students to keep the good ideas coming,” he said.


Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lola.alapo@tennessee.edu)