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[Fresh] Not your high school library

Interview with Joseph Lucia, Director of Falvey Library

Fresh@News: How do first year students feel about the library?

Joseph Lucia: I hope freshman students see the library as a welcoming and inviting place to socialize, interact and explore intellectually. My concern is that they not assume that the library is irrelevant because
they grew up with the different technology capabilities that make the library’s bookish heritage seem irrelevant to current learning and study needs. An academic library is a different kind of place than any other
library. Our library is a place for group study, a collaborative environment for interacting around computers, a setting to connect with complex digital resources while receiving instructional assistance from a librarian, and a setting for a broad mix of cultural and intellectual events (lecture, readings, discussions, debates, exhibits, book signings, receptions). We provide students with a lively & diverse learning environment.

Fresh@News: Often, freshman students report that the library is overwhelming and intimidating. What can we do to help relieve some of these anxieties?

Joseph Lucia: Freshman students are intimidated or embarrassed by what they are afraid they don’t know. They are often anxious about approaching a librarian to ask for assistance. Students would rather
find things on their own than admit that they don’t know where to find it. Our goal is to make them comfortable when they are afraid of asking. It’s easy for students to think they’ve found what they need. For
example, when you do a Google search on the internet, you get something. It’s not always the best thing. We need to collaborate more with faculty to find ways to help freshman learn more about what actually is
available through other sources. Much of it is available on the web, but not where they go to find it.  This library spends several million dollars annually for licensed content that is authoritative for academic purposes – and that’s what the freshmen need to learn to find and use in their course work. 

Fresh@News: What are freshman students coming to the library for?

Joseph Lucia: Students visit the library for a number of reasons. They come to study, both individually and to meet in groups. Often, students use the group study rooms available. They come for quick access to email
if they don’t have their laptop with them or they borrow one of our laptops and use the wireless network to sit on a couch and write, browse the Web, IM and other similar tasks. They come for assistance with class
assignments. In general, freshmen are not in a lot of research oriented classes, which require frequent visits for research. I would say that they are more casual users of the library. With that in mind, our mission is to make them feel comfortable from the start, so they will see the library as a place to come when they need assistance in the future.

Fresh@News: Is there anything new happening at the library this year?

Joseph Lucia: We’re always doing new things. Sometimes the new things are more visible than at other times. We are continuously re-thinking and reinvigorating the way our spaces operate and the sorts of activities
they support. The 2004 renovation of the first floor that changed the overall feel of the environment and students have really made the space their own in all sorts of ways during its first year of operation. Since
that renovation we've seen greater than a 30% increase in traffic into the building. Students stay longer than they used to because of the access to food and beverages our café provides. Our study lounge / café (sometimes I call it a “learning café”) has become one the great places to be seen on campus. There’s often a wait for seats. Because of the quantity of glass around the space – the large windows and the glass interior wall – we’ve heard it called the “fishbowl.” You know a place has been claimed by its users when it merits a nickname.  We are trying to further enhance the environment – in the next few months we will be adding additional public computing (about 30 more computers) in a new lab area on the first floor that will also feature state of the art presentation and teaching capabilities.  In addition, we will be implementing a “print center” to better support document production needs (including color and presentation materials) for students.

We are also continuously working to better connect the library to academic departments &  curricula. In addition, the library is a key partner in the sponsorship of One Book Villanova, and we have a number of events planned around Immaculee Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell. We are working very hard to make the library a center for intellectual and  cultural exchange, almost a civic center for campus life. And we are drawing more and more students into that through events involving students as presenters, such as poetry readings, panel discussions, and even debates.  We feature presentations every spring by students who have demonstrated excellence in undergraduate research through their senior theses in the Honors program.  We call these “Falvey Scholars.” 

Fresh@News: Are you doing any new things with technology?

Joseph Lucia: We are always refining our Web site, trying to find ways to make the academic resources the library offers as attractive and usable to students as Google or Yahoo. We are currently developing a
“resource discovery” tool for students that transcends the limitations of traditional library catalogs and that integrates local library resources with the global Web – that helps them identify authoritative
academic information with speed & ease.  You can preview this at http://vufind.org . In addition, this year we established the Villanova Digital Library that makes many unique  materials from our Special Collections accessible online.

Fresh@News: Is it important, beyond having students using the Web, to “get them in the door” to properly use the library?

Joseph Lucia: Well, to be honest, we don’t always have to “get them in the door.” The library website is just as much a part of the library as the building itself is. Given the nature of technology, we are able to
reach out to students in a number of ways. We’re open and receptive to their needs. The website offers a large number of learning and research resources.

Fresh@News: What services are available on the library web site?

Joseph Lucia: All of the library’s digital resources are available, including databases, research aids, full texts of e-journals, e-books, and reference sources, course reserves, online reference assistance, and
services to directly borrow resources from other libraries. In addition, students can get research assistance online by subject. We’ve developed online tutorials that are available on demand by any user. Guide to
common request such as: How to find a journal? How to access a database? How to do a database search? How to get the journal articles not available at Villanova? We see the web as a personalized full service

There are, of course, still many important print materials that you can’t get on the website and that require students to come into the building. For the most part though, the website is one source that is as complete as we can make it. Students can access it from their room or any building on campus, 24 hours a day, 7 seven days a week.

Fresh@News: Given the amount of resources available in the library, do students have any formal training on what’s available?

Joseph Lucia: Many faculty who teach entry level courses for freshmen bring students in to learn about the basic research tools in their fields. It doesn’t have to always be in the library. Often librarians come to their classes and teach students about the resources available.

Fresh@News: You talked a lot about the internet and how students use it for research. Aren't many of our students already familiar with the web?

Joseph Lucia: Yes. Students are very familiar with the web. Students think they know more than they do. What they don’t understand is that information on the web comes that comes from different channels and
varies in how it’s produced and authenticated. Students are very familiar with doing searches on the web, but don’t have a picture of what piece of the web information that represents. The library offers many scholarly resources that are not available on the open web. It’s considered proprietary and there is a fee attached. The library pays for it and makes it available to the larger community. These resources have been authenticated.

Fresh@News: What advice would you give to parents? How they can be helpful?

Joseph Lucia: Most parents will do this anyway. Talk to your children about what they are learning and doing here. Ask them if they have ever used the library. If they say no, ask them why not? Our parents tend to
be very involved with students.

Fresh@News: You’ve been at Villanova five years now. How do you like being the Director of the Library?

Joseph Lucia: I love it. It’s full of challenges and new things form one day to the next. This is an exciting time to be in academic library. Living through a revolution of how libraries carry out their mission and
deliver services. We’ve gotten past the naïve assumption of the first “dot com boom” that libraries were going to wither away and everything was going to be available online. We’re able to focuses more clearly on the library’s educational role and the ways the library can be a partner in student learning. And because of Villanova’s special character as a diverse medium-sized university with a strong funding-base for the library, we are seizing the opportunity to make our library a leading model of the best things a contemporary library should be. For more information, please visit the library’s web site at http://library.villanova.edu/