The Ector County Library website has received a much-needed facelift, thanks to a collaborative effort between the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) students, the Odessa Book Club, and Creative Marketing Nerds. The updated website, set to launch in December, will offer improved visual appeal, user-friendly navigation, and an accessible calendar of events.
The project was initiated by students from a 2016 senior-level professional writing course led by Myra Salcedo at UTPB. They approached Creative Marketing Nerds to develop the new website and provide staff training. Abel Nunez, CEO of Creative Marketing Nerds and an Odessa native, took the lead as the website developer. Nunez has a history of giving back to the community, having served as an Air Force Medic for 11 years and volunteering in various capacities throughout his military career.
Nunez expressed his enthusiasm for the project, stating, “Before this, I had offered to help revamp the Ector Library website on multiple occasions but kept getting turned down. I didn’t quite understand why they rejected my offer,” said Nunez, “I later found that they thought the offer was too good to be true and if there were any hidden out-of-pocket expenses involved, they simply didn’t have the budget for it. It wasn’t until Jay Estrada and other UTPB students from Salcedo’s class got involved that they helped convince the library to accept our services.”
The Odessa Book Club provided a $1,375 monetary donation to support the project, while Creative Marketing Nerds offered an in-kind contribution of $3,750. The UTPB team, consisting of seniors Lauren Barnes, Omar Garcia, and Michelle Mathews, and led by team leader Jay Estrada, expanded to include Kandice Hargreaves, Howard Marks, Elizabeth Rugutt, and Daisy Ruiz as the project progressed.
Salcedo noted that the website project was student led and student driven. It was done during a five-week period in the summer of 2016.
“The library’s been around for about 78 years, so it is a huge resource for this community and it was so difficult when we started looking at websites to navigate it,” Mathews said. “I know that when you’re trying to get information, if it’s difficult then you get frustrated and give up. Those community services are too valuable to just throw away like that.”
“The library plays too big a part in our community as a whole as far as literacy, children’s services (and) places to go for computer training. It’s just a huge resource and when you can’t access it, especially for people that are not really tech savvy, it forces people away … and it’s just a detriment to the community.”
Mathews said the rejuvenated site, which will be tweaked along the way, is beautiful.
“It’s wonderful. It’s so much easier to find what you’re looking for. You know immediately what you’re looking at, where you’re going to go and what you’re going to find. It’s a wonderful job,” Mathews said.
She added that she was so glad Estrada found Nunez and said he did the research on who to select.
Salcedo said she was very impressed with her students and that they were an agent for charge in the community.
She added that the students pulled so much together such as finding grant sources, someone to donate website development time and they wrote lengthy white papers that went point by point on what could be fixed.
“They just invested themselves into the project, and in five weeks they created a mountain of work. I was amazed,” Salcedo said.
She added that this was her first time teaching professional writing. Salcedo said the students could write a grant or create pamphlets for a nonprofit agency, but urged them to do something that mattered.
“Since I had some high-tech people in the class, they said let’s look at websites and so they came up with that idea to do the website. It went above and beyond by finding a way to fund it, knowing the library probably could not afford $4,000 to go out because that was the average price people were giving them for what they were asking,” Salcedo said.
The director of the J. Conrad Dunagan Library at UTPB, Howard Marks, believes the revamped website could attract more patrons and help re-establish the library as a central community hub. Melanie Sartor, an information technology tech at the library, acknowledged the website’s redesign had been a goal for years and expressed excitement about its upcoming launch.
The Ector County Library’s updated website is a testament to the power of community collaboration, showcasing the potential of students, businesses, and local organizations working together for a common goal.