By Jordan Cochran
Those well-acquainted with Reinhardt know that Joel Langford serves as an unofficial campus historian with his extensive knowledge of the institution’s history. They would be surprised to learn that Langford hardly knew of Reinhardt College when he applied for his position in 1985.
With Langford’s 35-year career at Reinhardt University, the library director now holds the title of the school’s longest tenured employee. He first arrived on campus for his job interview with Dr. Floyd Falany and visualized its potential, a place he could start his career for the next few years as he completed his master’s degree in Library Science.
“I came up for an interview, and although the developed campus was small, I felt like the school was ready to grow,” said Langford. “The Gordy Center and Brown Athletic Center were both fairly new so there appeared to be a commitment to improving facilities and fostering growth of the institution. Although I only had a brief chat with then-President Floyd Falany, his enthusiasm for Reinhardt was evident. Obviously, I have stayed longer than two or three years!”
Since starting at Reinhardt, Langford witnessed first-hand the evolution and impact of growth for Reinhardt. The campus has expanded both in size and capacity. From 50 to 200 employees; from 400 students to nearly 2,000 today.
“The growth in students, employees and facilities combined with witnessing the change from a two-year to a four-year college, the addition of graduate programs and becoming a university has been tremendous. Also, the opportunities for students academically, culturally and athletically are a big change from the 1980s.”
This growth led to an expansion of the library to accommodate resources and advance its technology.
“There was not a computer to be found in the library. Everything was print – books, journals, magazines, indexes and the card catalog. If the information was not physically in the library, it was difficult to find.”
The book collection started at 45,000, with about 300 subscriptions to print periodicals. The early 1990s brought the first addition of a computer database. The library now offers around 75,000 options to students, faculty, staff and the community.
“Initially, these were self-contained on a single machine and were updated monthly via floppy disk. Full text of articles indexed on these databases were supplied on microfiche. Eventually, as the Internet evolved, we added online databases that were both difficult and expensive to search. Finally, in 1996, we became part of GALILEO which opened up a wealth of information for our students. Soon after this, we transferred the old card catalog to an online system.”
The library received two major renovations in the past 20 years. In 2003, the 24-hour access areas were added to each floor. Then in 2017, the library interior was flipped, allowing space to create study rooms, a computer lab and community room. Langford feels these changes increased the usage of the facility significantly by meeting the needs of students. A favorite part of his job is showing students ways to navigate these resources to find the information needed for projects and assignments.
While Reinhardt physically evolved over the past few decades, Langford observed the biggest change to be in attitude as a result of offering more opportunities to potential students.
“I think that Reinhardt is now seen as a first choice. Yes, we still have our struggles and issues as all institutions do, but we know that we can compete academically, artistically and athletically with our peer institutions and often with much larger schools.”
Despite its ever-growing quality, Langford noted the one aspect of Reinhardt that never changes: the people. He watched as the institution persevered and thrived through its many seasons, and attributes this to the sacrifice Reinhardt’s people make for the University and for each other.
“Undoubtedly, the people are the best part about working at Reinhardt. I have known many faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of Reinhardt over the years, and the common thread among them all is caring. They care about the institution and its well-being, but more importantly, they care about each other’s well-being. Without the personal and professional relationships formed among its people, Reinhardt would not be the place that it is – and likely would no longer be in existence. I am sure that I would not have spent 35 years and counting here without the support, encouragement and caring that I have received over the years from the people of Reinhardt”
Thank you, Joel Langford, for your continued dedication and years of service to Reinhardt University and the Hill Freeman Library and Spruill Learning Center.