Administrators engaging students in library infrastructure, resource issuesBy Julia Morse
Library administrators are tapping what they call their “greatest resource”—students.
Established this year, the Library Student Resource Group has met just twice but already has accomplished a great deal, said Judith Nadler, Director of the University Library.
“These students are engaged and informed,” Nadler said. “They don’t necessarily speak with one voice or have just one set of ideas—they each have individual perspectives, hopes and suggestions for us. It really is extraordinary.”
Deputy Provost Martha Roth facilitated the initiative, which now includes four College students and six graduate students as members of the group. The College students are Dan Kimerling, Bridget Madden, Jillian Marshall and Andy Thompson. The graduate student members are Frances Spaltro, Jillian Mislinski, Monica Mercado, Michael Jurczak, Rebecca Fitzgerald and Larisa Reznik.
Nadler said that although the library always has received feedback and suggestions from students in more informal ways, such as the online suggestion blog, she wanted to establish a way to communicate regularly and more directly. At the same time, students also were seeking an avenue to provide input on ongoing library issues, most notably, the future addition to the Joseph Regenstein Library.
“We wanted to hear from them and discuss their needs, wants and concerns in a one-on-one manner,” Nadler said. “It should be ensured that their experience with the library is a good one—we can best do that if we work on it together.”
At the first two meetings, items of discussion included infrastructure improvements in the Joseph Regenstein Library (such as the heating, ventilating and air conditioning rehabilitation work and the installation of a fire suppression/sprinkler system), uses of library space, enhancing access to the library’s resources, laptop computer security, library-student communications and the move of the all-night study space to the John Crerar Library.
Mislinski, who is a graduate student in Physical Sciences, calls Chicago’s library system “phenomenal.” Last year, The Princeton Review ranked the library third in the category of best college libraries in the country, confirming a fact Mislinski said she already knew. “Most other universities and public libraries can’t hold a candle to ours,” she said.
As a member of the Library Student Resource Group, Mislinski said she hopes to discuss the possibility of implementing a faceted browse system, which she said can be used to navigate the library’s resources on the Web more easily—including breaking down the search into more than one dimension by searching associated words and spelling variations.
“It’s the coolest thing since sliced bread,” she said. “I’m very much looking forward to helping the library staff realize what the students need as well as giving my own opinion on issues.”
Spaltro, a graduate student in Humanities and President of the Humanities Division Graduate Student Council, wrote that she initiated contact with library administrators in hopes of establishing “a formal line of communication whereby students could have input into the process and be apprised of developments” regarding the future addition to the Joseph Regenstein Library.
She noted that the Library Student Resource Group not only addresses the extension project, but also provides a venue for administrators to gain a better understanding of students’ overall experiences using the library.
“As we get our feet wet exploring library issues from the easily addressed to the more complex, I hope we will be able to find ways to make the library experience more comfortable and productive, as well as to engage students in that process,” Spaltro wrote.
For Nadler, one of the most gratifying moments working with this group thus far happened at the second meeting, when a few student members were unable to attend and sent their friends as replacements.
“Our goal was to establish the feeling of togetherness, and I think we have begun to do that,” Nadler said.
Mislinski added, “I think the group will accomplish more than it set out to, and that it will be a continuing asset to the library and the University.”
Additional information about the Library Student Resource Group is available at http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/about/studadv/.