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[Fresh] Fresh@News: Falvey Memorial Library

Named for an Augustinian who devoted his life to developing a library as modern and as functional as any in the country, the Falvey Memorial Library is a popular stop on any campus tour. The library is a recent recipient of the prestigious Academic College & Research Library Award for Excellence, which recognizes outstanding work of librarians and library staff in furthering the educational missions of their institutions. We've asked our new Director, Ms. Millicent Gaskell, and Mr. Rob LeBlanc, a librarian in unique Falvey's First Year Program, some more frequently encountered queries here.


Fresh@News: Do students these days still use the library like in the old days? Isn't everything on the internet?

M. Gaskell: Part of our mission here at Falvey Memorial Library is to provide students with an intellectual commons and a welcoming, inspirational atmosphere that allows them to use the library as so much more than a book warehouse. The key thing the internet doesn't offer is a librarian - there's no such thing as a Googlarian. Librarians help sift, assess and provide scholarship. We work with your child's professors to promote and teach information literacy. Librarians work to cultivate that cold eye into students so that they too will learn to discern the wheat from the chaff - a skill which will serve them their entire lives.


We hope all Villanova students - old and new - see the library as a welcoming and inviting place to interact and intellectually explore. Our 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. 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. And we regularly host lectures, readings, discussions, exhibitions, and entertaining events, providing students with a lively & diverse learning environment.


Fresh@News: How else have academic libraries changed since when we went to college?

M. Gaskell: Unless you had a virtual reality room or a public restoration of a rare 17th century oil painting, Villanova's library is very different. We love to brag about the unique areas of the library that not only fulfill the time-honored traditional Augustinian values of pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, but exist on the cutting edge of inventiveness and collaboration.


The CAVE is an ‘automatic virtual environment’ which allows participants to become virtually immersed in a setting in which they can move about and even circle the 3D image of an object. The one in Falvey, supported by a $1.67 million NSF grant, is the largest facility of its kind designed for public use. The Idea Accelerator for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship recently opened its doors in Falvey and exists to foster innovative thinking through workshops, programs, and networking. And while it seems paradoxical, an interdisciplinary team of chemists, technologists and conservators recently used the latest digital and scientific technology to analyze a baroque masterpiece that hangs in our Old Reading Room.


Additionally, the library hosts literally hundreds of events each academic year. For example, we're a key partner in the sponsorship of One Book Villanova and we've hosted live public marathon readings of works such as Dante's Inferno and the Harry Potter series. We provide students opportunities to get involved in our programming as planners, presenters or participants, including activities such as poetry readings and panel discussions. In the spring, we feature presentations by students who have demonstrated excellence in undergraduate research called the “Falvey Scholars” awards.


Fresh@News: Don’t students already know their way around the internet pretty well?  What unique resources does the library offer that they can’t just find on the web?

M. Gaskell: 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. The University invests several million dollars annually for library collections and licensed content of that caliber – and that’s what the students need to learn to find and use in their course work.


Students can access hundreds of databases and resources, chat with librarians, and access the catalog, tutorials, subject guides and a myriad of informative library blogs and social media accounts. The page, http://library.villanova.edu, provides an “open source” search interface that incorporates 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 comprised of about 1.5 billion unique journal articles, news stories, and includes a robust research help system, comprehensive research guides for almost all of our academic disciplines, and current news about things going on in the library.


Librarians are on the front lines of helping students learn how to properly cite their work and avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious offense and grounds for failure and expulsion at Villanova. Students can be uninformed about what determines appropriating others' work and falter unknowingly. Working closely with a librarian or attending workshops not only shows a student where to find relevant scholarship, but also how to properly cite it and utilize the information in their own papers.


Fresh@News: My child was a high-achieving student in high school, but navigating the enormity of an academic research library and its resource seems like a vast undertaking. Are there special services or workshops just for new college students?

M. Gaskell:   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. Our First Year Experience Librarian, Rob LeBlanc, 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.

R. LeBlanc: Many ACS (Augustine and Culture Seminar) classes come over to the library for an instructional session or a librarian may make a classroom visit to go over the library’s many resources. Librarians are also more than willing to provide individual or group research instruction to new students. We also have concise, helpful instructional videos on the Library Search page (https://library.villanova.edu/Find/) and, of course, they can contact me directly for help. Many schools do not have a librarian dedicated specifically to first-year students. If they need specialty help that is beyond my skills, I can get them to the librarian who can best fulfill their research needs.


Fresh@News: What's the best way for my child to contact librarians to get help?

M. Gaskell: A lot of students, but especially newcomers, are hesitant to admit that 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!  Our “ask a librarian” online chat service and library support service via texting (610-816-6222), is frequently used by students who are in fact sitting in the library but who won’t approach the front desk for assistance.  We’re just as happy if they use chat or text as if they come up to the desk in person!


Fresh@News: If my son or daughter tells me they’re struggling with their grades, how can going to the library help?

R. LeBlanc: I think that starting at Villanova is both a thrilling and daunting experience. Learning where all of the student services and academic resources are- or even where all your classes are - can be overwhelming. Luckily, first-year students have lots of help!  Our friendly librarians will help you get all the academic support you need, including helping you locate resources or direct you to our Writing Center, Math Learning Resource Center and Learning Support Services, all located on the second floor. 

M. Gaskell:  These are amazing support services in place to help students throughout their four years.  They offer workshops as well as drop in hours with peer tutors that can really help the student find success when they are struggling.


Fresh@News: My child says his/her room can get crowded and noisy. Is the library conducive to study? Do you feel that students generally enjoy Falvey?

R. LeBlanc: We hope they think the library is awesome!  Sure, they can come in for research help and to access to our huge collection, but the library is also one of the best places on campus to relax, meet with friends, and study alone or in groups.

M. Gaskell: As Rob stated, some areas of the library are profoundly quiet and other areas are meant for more collaborative activities.  “Old-school” cubicles line our silent third and fourth floors; a choice between a classroom atmosphere and comfy sofas are on the second. A busy coffee shop and large bank of computers share the first floor with Villanova's busiest print center. And the campus' best kept secret is the Old Falvey Reading Room. With vaulting ceilings and expansive windows, this space was off-limits to students for over 25 years, but recently opened for 24/7 study. Libraries serve a multitude of purposes but above all, they should be a place that inspires great thoughts and ideas for its users.

Several other areas are open for 24/7 study, and accessible after hours with a current Wildcard ID. All areas are monitored by security cameras and are on monitored by Public Safety.


Fresh@News: If a student forgot their laptop/their printer is broken/they can’t find their power cord/their phone was dead/their computer crashed/their roommate snores/their professor is picking on them/they need a job. Can the library help?

M. Gaskell: We can be helpful in some way for all of these situations! We also have plenty of laptops to loan, as well as dozens of desktop computers for public usage. The library is home to the busiest self-serve print center on campus and open during regular library hours. We also loan power cords, chargers, have oodles of outlets, and sell USB drives. We've got 24/7 areas, so we're open day and night and can loan headphones to escape noisy snorers. As far as the professor goes, a consultation with a librarian just might help your child isolate what’s peeving the professor, and in addition we can help by offering stress-busting events during finals. Current students wishing to work at the library (or any place on campus) can review available student jobs by visiting http://www1.villanova.edu/main.html , and clicking the Work At Villanova link at the bottom of the page.


In closing, we want to make the library welcoming and inspiring and hope that valuable academic interactions will follow.  Make sure your child knows we're here to help them, can show them around and even give them those words of encouragement that they may need and would get if they were home with you. If you have any further questions, contact our Director's Office at 610-519-4541 or visit www.library.villanova.edu.




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