Written by Manvitha Doma

UNT Willis Library 1972
Willis Library, North Texas State University in 1972 from The Portal to Texas History

Willis Library is celebrating its 50th anniversary on November 11th. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Willis Library, it is the perfect time to review the history of library services at Willis.  Over the years, Willis has been home to thousands of late-night study sessions, expert guidance from library faculty and countless hours of collaborative work spent in study spaces. The library service desk was originally called the Circulation desk. Through this desk, library patrons had access to services such as checking items in and out, paying fines, and picking up holds. Workshops were conducted with library staff, students, and University of North Texas stakeholders who were invited to share their perceptions of Willis Library in 2014. The results of these surveys revealed the most important service was 24-hour library access, with study spaces coming in second. (Forrest 2014)

Willis Library housed seven service desks total before 2011. As Mary Ann Venner, the current Associate Dean for Public Services, stated in her report in 2013, desks were classified as the Checkout Desk, Circulation Desk, Reserves Desk, Fines Desk, Interlibrary Loan Desk, Tech Desk, and Reference Desk. (Venner 2013) In 2011, the reserves desk and fines desk were consolidated with the circulation desk, and then the Circulation and ILL departments were merged to form the Access Services department. In Summer 2012, the reference desk was merged with the circulation desk as Access Services took on more responsibilities.

Card cataloging system in the Library
Photograph of four students looking through the card cataloging system in the Library from UNT Digital Library

Historically, checking out materials required patrons to search for the book from a card catalog where they could find the bibliographic information such as author and title for the book. The patron would then locate and bring the book to the service desk and check it out using a library card. To complete the checkout process, the due date was placed on the card using a library stamp. Many books and journals in the library collection did not have barcodes before 2000. In 2000, a massive project was undertaken, and all the items had barcodes and records created for them. As a further step towards digitizing the catalog, the library chose to purchase more electronic resources such as e-journals instead of print journals. Now, the library has a collection of over 1.9 million books and journals, 64,270 electronic subscriptions, 4 million microfilm pieces and 900,000 music recordings. The library has also developed an online catalog and the efforts to adopt digitization allowed patrons to easily check out books through the use of a self-checkout machine. Today, Willis Library has a collection of over 7 million printed volumes, periodicals, maps, documents, microforms, audiovisual materials, music scores, and software, which are overseen by expert staff who serve the information needs of the institution. 

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and Document Delivery services were available for books, book chapters, and journal articles that are not owned by the library. Patrons made requests for ILL using paper forms until 2000 where they used to drop the forms locked at the box at ILL service desk. ILL staff had to manually enter the records in OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) ILL system which were stored on file for 5 years. Starting in 2002, all requests were made electronically, and by 2003 ILL started electronic delivery. In 2009, the library system began utilizing ILL for distance learning. Initially, there was a separate online form where students requested materials for distance learning (Johnston 2016). Currently, patrons can request materials through ILLiad to get a copy of the resource. Document Delivery service for faculty and staff started in 2012. Eventually, these information scanning services were expanded to everyone. 

Willis Library has offered Course Reserves since its inception, allowing patrons to check out books put on hold by a professor for a small period of time. When it comes to holding books for patrons, the library used to have a hold/recall shelf that required many employees. However, thanks to advancements in technology, this process has become more efficient. Now, patrons can put their required materials on hold through the website. 

Have you ever heard of Liaison Librarians? That is an old name for our Subject Librarians, who assist patrons with all types of research problems, from helping choose a book for a patron’s research to helping create citations for an article. Subject Librarians create guides on the library homepage to assist patrons in navigating the library. These guides act as a one-stop-shop for academic resources, including tips on database searching, citation assistance, and bibliographic management tools. 

Though the library has had chat operations since the year 2000, it really came into the spotlight in March 2020. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, patrons have started using chat services frequently, and the Access Services department has been able to answer many questions, help people find electronic access to their textbooks, and assist in digitizing materials for courses. In addition to all these services, the library also provides calculators, markers, and laptops. The most recent additions to the library inventory for patrons include the translator, listening device, desk light, book stand, magnifier, lap pad, project Kit, math kit, sensory kit, and flash cards for 10 different languages many more tools for patrons to come. Keep an eye on our website for more information about Willis Library’s services.  

Did this blog help you learn about the services Willis library provides for the patrons? Let us know your comments! Please contact Ask Us if you have any questions about library services.


Forrest, C. (2014). University of North Texas libraries: Willis Library second floor renovation. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc499087/ 

Johnston, P. (2016). Working together to get it for them: ILL and document delivery at the UNT libraries [PowerPoint slides]. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc826640/m1/44/ 

Venner, M. A. (2013). Combined services desk report. https://digital.library.unt.edu: UNT Digital Library. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc461740/m1/2/?q=%22Willis%20Library%22%20services 

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