Today, Fresh@News interviews Mr. Darren Poley, M.A., M.S., Interim Director of Falvey Memorial Library.
Fresh@News: How do first year students feel about the library?
Darren Poley: I hope students new to Villanova see the library as a welcoming and inviting place to interact and intellectually explore. 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 co-curricular events (lectures, readings, discussions, debates, exhibitions, and receptions). Falvey provides 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?
DP: 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 a personal librarian program that connects students with research librarians. 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, even when they are hesitant to ask for help, by going out of our way to provide easy ways for students to get help– most notably through our “ask a librarian” online chat service and library support service via texting (610-816-6222), 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 or text as if they come up to the desk in person!
F@N: What are freshman students coming to the library for?
DP: 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 they can borrow one from the library, and use the wireless network to sit on a couch and write, browse the Web, engage using social media, 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, Learning Support Services, and Library research support. Our mission is to provide a positive experience from the start, so they will see Falvey 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, as well as a place to study.
F@N: Given the amount of resources available in the library, do students receive any formal training on what’s available?
DP: Many faculty members 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 made available by the Library.
F@N: What is happening at the library this year?
DP: We are so excited to have the Learning Commons on our second floor, which houses a group of critical academic support services, including 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 will have a number of events planned around Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum. We work hard to make the library a center for intellectual and cultural exchange, almost a civic center for campus life. There was, for example, a live public marathon reading of Homer’s Odyessy in September, which happened 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 the “Falvey Scholars” awards.
F@N: What services are available on the library web site?
DP: 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 have been able add a new mobile version of Falvey’s Website.
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?
DP: 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.
We hope your son/daughter will take advantage of all the great resources the Library has to offer, especially during our Mid-terms next week. For more information, please visit the library’s web site at http://library.villanova.edu/
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