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[Fresh] FRESH@News: Utilizing The Library


As we approach mid-term week, Fresh@News interviews Mr. Joseph Lucia, Director of Falvey Library, for some insight on how to students utilize their resources. 


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.


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

JL: One of the most important things we are attempting to do is personalize the library for first year students, and to connect the library environment to things that are familiar and significant for 18-year-olds. We recently hired a First Year Experience Librarian, whose job is almost exclusively focused on connecting the library with a student’s initial academic activities. This includes integrating exposure to academic research methods in some core freshmen classes as well as the development of programs that engage the imagination as much as the intellect – for instance, this fall we are hosting weekly marathon readings of the entire series of Harry Potter books in the library on Wednesdays and we’ve seen a growing level of interest from our freshmen. We want to make the library welcoming and inspiring and hope that valuable academic interactions will follow.


A lot of students, but especially freshmen students, are anxious about admitting they don’t understand what an academic library can offer them.  Our goal is to make them comfortable when they are afraid of asking by going out of our way to provide easy ways for students to get help– most notably through our “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!



F@N: What are freshman students coming to the library for?

JL:  They come to study, both individually and in groups, often using 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!) or for assistance with class assignments. They come to access services on the second floor Learning Commons – the Writing Center, the Math Resource Center, and Learning Support Services & Research Support. Our mission is to provide a positive supportive experience from the start, so they will see the library as a place to come when they need assistance in the future. And as I said above, increasingly they are coming in for special events, like the Potter readings.


F@N: Given the amount of resources available in the library, do students receive any formal training on what’s available?

JL: 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. Some years, we sponsor an open house with door prizes, such as an iPad, which pulls in a lot of freshmen.  To qualify for the door prize drawing, students must 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.


F@N: What is happening at the library this year? 

JL:  The big news is the presence on our second floor of the new Learning Commons (opened in January 2012), where we have collocated a group of critical academic support services, including the Writing Center (which all freshmen must visit twice), the Math Resource Center, Learning Support Services, and Research Support librarians. In addition, we are hoping that by January we will have re-opened the Old Falvey Reading Room that has been closed to the public for almost 30 years as 24-hour quiet study space.  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 Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Connor Grennan. 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 Dante’s Divine Comedy in a couple of weeks, which is happening in conjunction with the freshmen Augustine & Culture Seminars (ACS).  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.  In the spring, we feature presentations by students who have demonstrated excellence in undergraduate research called “Falvey Scholars” awards. 


F@N: What services are available on the library web site?

JL: 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 social features – tagging, favorite lists, comments & book reviews, texting of search results to cell phones – as well as some really nice browsing functions. The site features 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 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. In addition, with the help of our amazing team of technology developers on the library staff, we will be rolling out a new mobile version of the site. 


F@N: 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?

JL: Yes, students are very familiar with the web but what they don’t understand is that information on the web comes from different channels and varies in how it’s produced and authenticated.   A simple Google Search is not always the most reliable source!  The library offers many legitimate scholarly resources that are not available on the open web, that contain 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.



For more information, please visit the library’s web site at http://library.villanova.edu/





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