Welcome to Fresh@News, Villanova's e-mail newsletter for parents and friends of the Class of 2014. Over the year we will be sending you occasional postings about activities at Villanova University that relate to the freshman students experience. Instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe from this service are given at the end of this posting.
As mid-term season begins, Fresh@News interviews Mr. Joseph Lucia, Director of Falvey Library, for a look into this crucial campus resource.
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 unimportant to them because they grew up in a digital world that makes the library’s bookish heritage seem irrelevant to current learning and study needs. A good contemporary academic library functions as a setting for group study, a collaborative environment for interacting around computers, a place to connect with complex digital resources while receiving instructional assistance from a librarian, and a venue 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: A lot of students, but especially freshmen students, are anxious about admitting they don’t understand what an academic library can offer them. They are often unwilling to approach a librarian and 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 all the information need for their assignments. When you do a Google search, you always get something. It’s not necessarily the best thing but it’s probably at least somewhat relevant to the question at hand. Much of what the library provides is accessible on the web, but it’s in “hidden” resources that don’t show up through the usual search engines. What’s in those “hidden” resources is often authoritative information in an academic context. This library spends several million dollars annually for licensed content of that caliber – and that’s what the freshmen need to learn to find and use in their course work. We also go out of our way to provide easy ways for students to get help without asking a face to face question – most notably through our IM-based “ask a librarian” online chat services, which we find is frequently used by students who are in fact sitting in the library but who won’t approach the Information Desk for assistance. But we’re just as happy if they use chat as if they come up to the desk in person!
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 in groups. Often, students use the group study rooms we have 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, view Facebook, and other similar tasks. They come to print documents – we have the busiest printers on campus, producing millions of pages of output per year even in this digital environment. They come for assistance with class assignments. But 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: Given the amount of resources available in the library, do students receive 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. We also do some outreach through the RAs, and we sponsor a pretty cool open house with really neat door prizes (this year the prizes included an iPad), which pulls in a lot of freshmen. To qualify for the door prize drawing, they have to explore a brief subject area research guide, answer some questions, and talk with a librarian – so it’s kind of a “stealth orientation” to the academic library for those who show up.
Fresh@News: What is happening at the library this year?
Joseph Lucia: We are 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 The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney. We work hard to make the library a center for intellectual and cultural exchange, almost a civic center for campus life. There will, for example, be a live reading of St. Augustine’s Confessions in a couple of weeks, which is happening in conjunction with the freshmen seminars in Augustine & Culture. We are drawing more and more students into our programming by involving them as presenters, including activities such as poetry readings, panel discussions, and even debates. We feature presentations every spring by students who have demonstrated excellence in undergraduate research called “Falvey Scholars” awards. That program has been focused in the past on students from the Honors program in all four undergraduate colleges.
Fresh@News: What services are available on the library web site?
Joseph Lucia: Our library Website (http://library.villanova.edu) was developed through a careful study of student information seeking activities. It’s a beautifully designed site that provides a locally-developed “open source” search interface incorporating a lot of Web 2.0 features – tagging, favorite lists, comments & book reviews, texting of search results to cell phones – as well as some really nice browsing functions. This year we have considerably enhanced our searching capabilities by implementing a large aggregated index that covers much of our licensed digital content – comprised of about 1.5 billion unique journal articles, news stories, etc. Students will see that when they do a basic search and get pack to distinct panes of results – the first labeled “Books & More,” the second labeled “Articles & More.” The site also includes a research help system that enables students to ask and answer each other’s research questions while also getting assistance from librarians, comprehensive research guides for almost all of our academic disciplines, and it includes current news about things going on in the library.
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: 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 but 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.
For more information, please visit the library’s web site at http://library.villanova.edu/
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