Service, an open mind, and accountability pay off

As finals week for the fall 2014 semester is winding down, we in the Library are reflecting on how busy things have been. On Monday December 1, we experienced the highest door count in our history: 2113 visits. The previous record high count of 1661 was a year earlier on Monday December 9, 2013. We experienced a 21% increase overall in unique visits to the Library during the exam period this year over the same time period last year. To get a sense of how busy we were, you can visit a photo album on the Library’s Facebook page.

One thing that we see all the time is how often students are using the library space to work together, which was what we had in mind as we set about redesigning the space.Students Collaborating Whether they are using “old” technology like whiteboards
Using Whiteboards
or the new computer workstations on the busy collaboration zone of the first floor.
Collaboration at computers
When I get asked why our door counts are up 21% in a semester when enrollments are down, the deliberate redesign of our space to enable students to work together effectively would seem to be one reason.

But we also know that not everyone wants to collaborate all of the time. Sometimes, a quiet place to study is just what they want, as we saw this week as almost every single space of any shape or design was filled with students.
Students in old carrels
Whether they were taking advantage of our semi-quiet Scholars’ Lounge on the first floor
Scholars' Lounge
or were making use of our brand-new computer workstations on the designated quiet third floor.
quiet computer space - 3rd floor
We also opened up our instruction room on the second floor with dedicated computers as another quiet study area with computers. These steps have all been taken following student feedback. As much as we can, we try to give our students the type of equipment, space, and experience that they need to be successful.

But beyond redesigning the space, we continually redesign our services based on feedback from students and faculty. This semester, we provided instruction to 39% more students than for the fall semester of 2013.

We also hosted 83% more events for students than in the same semester last year. We pride ourselves on putting the students first, listening to what they have to say, and doing our best to give them what they need and want to have successful academic careers. Some of those events are less serious than others, such as our periodic visits from the Therapy Dogs International at stressful times, but they are all designed to engage, educate, and enlighten our students.
Therapy Dogs International December 2014

As part of increasing our transparency and accountability, we have also worked diligently to create up-to-date and informative reports from all library departments, documenting our activity, achievements, and challenges. We invite everyone to look at our Library Departmental and Committee Reports

The Poynter Library faculty and staff are a dedicated, hard-working, creative group of people. We have managed to accomplish some amazing things together. If anyone reading this posting is inspired to give us a hand, I invite you to visit our giving pages where you can see all the areas of support needed to enable us to continue to serve the students of this beautiful university. Join in the fun!

Multicultural Day at the Library November 18, 2014

This week the Library hosted its first comprehensive multicultural event, the centerpiece of which was the Living Library.

The Living Library brings in people from different backgrounds to be “Living Books” so that others can “check them out” and have a conversation with them about their life’s experiences. The Poynter Library’s first Living Books included USFSP students, faculty, and staff as well as people from the surrounding community.

All Living Book participants selected a book title and Associate Librarian Kaya van Beynen, Chair of the Library’s Diversity Committee, created book covers to guide attendees to their selected Living Book.
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In our first effort, we had 12 Living Books and approximately 70 students and others who came to have conversations and learn a little bit about what life was like for someone with a background different from their own.

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Following the Living Library event, Dr. Vikki Gaskin Butler, USFSP Instructor of Psychology, presided over a Mediterranean Luncheon (catered by Maazzaro’s) and led a discussion about the event asking people to share what they had learned and with whom they were going to share what they learned. Discussion among attendees and Living Books was lively, with feedback making it clear that everyone thought it was great start to what they hoped would be an ongoing event. The day concluded with a demonstration of SAA Bollywood Dance Team’s performance of “Nagada Sang Dhol”

For more information about the event, participants, and to see posters, pictures, and videos, please visit the event site at: http://dspace.nelson.usf.edu/xmlui/handle/10806/12396

Upcoming Multicultural Events

As part of the Poynter Library’s renewed focus on issues of diversity and inclusion, we will be hosting a series of events in 2014/2015 to promote conversation between the USFSP community and people from many different backgrounds. The University’s strategic mission places an emphasis on being inclusive and supportive of diverse backgrounds. As I’ve mentioned before in this space, libraries in the United States abide by the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights which asserts that librarians have a responsibility to ensure that all points of view are represented in our services and collections. To bring this principle to life, the Library is hosting a series of events to encourage conversation, reflection, and questioning of assumptions about other people.

The first event is scheduled for November 6 at 6 p.m. in Poynter Corner. Jean-Charles Faust, the President of the French-American Business Council of West Florida and French Honorary Consul will be speaking about “The French Economic Presence in the Tampa Bay Area.” Co-sponsored by the Library and the Department of Society, Culture, and Language, the event is free and open to the public. French wine and cheese will be served.

On November 18, on the Library’s first floor, we will be holding our first “Living Library” event. Following a model utilized by libraries around the world in the Human Library movement, this event takes the concept of inclusion to a new level and challenges us all to confront our preconceived notions about people from different backgrounds. Individuals from the local community and from USFSP have volunteered to participate as “Living Books” available for checkout for short conversations about their background and experiences, just as in this image from a Human Library event in Copenhagen. HUman Library Event in CopenhagenThe intent is to encourage conversation and understanding among people who might otherwise not have a chance to interact except at a very superficial level. USFSP students and others will benefit from broadening their awareness of the world around them. Starting at 9 a.m. and going until 11 a.m., there will be four separate discussion sessions with 10 minutes in between for people to move to another individual “Living Book” for a new conversation. Following the morning discussions, food from different cultures will be served at an informal luncheon served in the Library’s Poynter Corner. Dr. Vikki-Gaskin Butler, Instructor, Psychology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at USFSP, will be leading a wrap-up discussion of the morning’s event at the luncheon. This event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by USFSP’s University Advancement office

Come broaden your outlook at the Poynter Library.

Upcoming Discussion on The Cost of Textbooks

On Thursday, October 23 from noon to 1 p.m. in the University Student Center, the Poynter Library and USFSP Student Government will be sponsoring a panel discussion on the Rising Cost of Textbooks : What’s the Answer? There will be four panelists who will each be addressing the issue from a different perspective:

  • Mr. Jay Hartfield, Manager, USFSP Barnes & Noble Campus Bookstore (the bookstore perspective)
  • Dr. Han Reichgelt, Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, USFSP (the faculty and administrative perspective)
  • Ms. Tina Neville, Head of Library Research and Instruction, Poynter Library (the Library perspective)
  • Mr. Juan Salazar, Student Government Representative and Psychology Major
    (the student perspective)

I will take five minutes to introduce the topic and the panelists. Each panelist will then have five minutes to outline their perspective. After all panelists have spoken, those in attendance will be encouraged to share their comments and questions.

This discussion is one of a series of events being sponsored by the Poynter Library in commemoration of International Open Access Week and it is also one of the regular Lunch & Learn Series coordinated by the Division of Student Affairs. All students, faculty, and administrators will be invited and encouraged to share their experiences.

Banned Books and Censorship

September 21-27, 2014 is Banned Books Week, a time when libraries around the world celebrate the freedom for anyone, anywhere, to read what they want. To commemorate Banned Books Week, library faculty, staff, and students have designed an exhibit that showcases some of the books that have been restricted, removed, or challenged at schools and libraries across the United States.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom maintains lists of books that have been challenged and explains the controversies surrounding some of these books. Restrictions on books come from religious organizations, governments, parents, people with different points of view – from people and groups all over the world. The attempt to control what people think (by restricting their access to information and ideas) is a worldwide phenomenon. Almost everyone can point to a book or a website or a TV news station or a film that they find personally offensive. But, as I’ve explained in this space before, libraries in North America are committed to the principle of providing full access to all legal information.

Come to the Poynter Library and explore the world. We will help you find and utilize the information you want and need for your studies, research, and personal enjoyment.

SHARE and Access to Research

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) have partnered to develop an initiative to ensure the preservation of, access to, and reuse of research. Called SHARE (SHared Access Research Ecosystem), the initiative is intended to “develop solutions that capitalize on the compelling interest shared by researchers, libraries, universities, funding agencies, and other key stakeholders to maximize research impact, today and in the future. SHARE aims to make the inventory of research assets more discoverable and more accessible, and to enable the research community to build upon these assets in creative and productive ways.” SHARE’s goal is to be a mechanism to increase open access to research data and to publications resulting from that research.

SHARE developed partially in response to the Obama administration’s February 2013 Policy Memorandum that called upon federal agencies with annual research and development budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with free and unlimited online access to the results of that research, including access to research data. With the federal government funding of billions of dollars in scientific research each year, there is a growing expectation that the results of this federally funded research will be openly and freely available to other researchers and to the general public in a timely manner in order to advance science and accelerate innovation, as well as lead to medical breakthroughs.

With the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s renewed commitment to research, as articulated in the new Vision 20/20 strategic plan, it is critically important for USFSP’s faculty researchers to stay informed about all aspects of the open access movement and to understand their rights and responsibilities, especially if their research is funded by federal grant money. Through the USFSP Digital Archive, as well as through the research project being conducted on the management of research data at USFSP, the Library is positioned to assist College faculty in complying with federal funding guidelines.

To read more about the SHARE initiative, check out the Share Knowledge Base blog.

To learn more about the USFSP Digital Archive and how we are working in concert with SHARE and other international initiative on open access, contact me at hixson at usfsp.edu or the Digital Collections Team at digcol at nelson.usf.edu

Diversity and Inclusion at Our Core

On November 12, 2010, I posted a message on my Dean’s Messages web site on the topic of diversity. The message addressed one of the sculpted bronze hands embedded in the walls of the Poynter Library. One of those sculptures extols the value of DIVERSITY. I originally wrote about diversity as a response to a student who had contacted me wanting to know why we had hosted an exhibit on Black History but hadn’t done an exhibit on Irish Heritage Month. In the summer of 2013, I again addressed the issue when a student wrote to President Genshaft complaining about what she considered pornography in the Library because we were advertising a talk on the 1964 Florida Legislative Investigative Committee’s Report on “Homosexuality and citizenship in Florida” by using an image from the state government document showing two bare-chested men kissing.

These concerns from USFSP students, along with recent incidents in our community and around the country, make it clear that the topic merits much more discussion. For that reason, I am reposting my original message, with some additions.

The KKK incident in the City of St. Petersburg’s Stormwater Department that happened in October 2013 but was reported on by the Tampa Bay Times on August 16, 2014 is one indication of how close to the surface tensions around diversity really are. The August 9, 2014 shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent reactions in that community and around the world have highlighted our need for closer self-examination and renewed commitment to a diverse, inclusive society. The ongoing battle in the courts about same-sex marriage is another manifestation of how divided we as a people are regarding diversity and inclusion. There are countless examples from around the country and the world of people wanting to be included in all the benefits enjoyed by others and accepted as they are and sometimes negative reactions from other members of society.

What is diversity and why do we consider it one of the core values of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the Poynter Library? Diversity in the U.S. has often been a political hot-button, serving to divide rather than unite us. One of the definitions given in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a point of unlikeness; a difference, distinction; a different kind, a variety.” One simple definition, then, is variety in who we are and how we live.

Wikipedia lists many kinds of diversity, including political diversity, ethnic diversity, diversity training, biodiversity and more. Under political diversity, Wikipedia asserts that the term is used “to describe differences in racial or ethnic classifications, age, gender, religion, philosophy, physical abilities, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, intelligence, mental health, physical health, genetic attributes, behavior, attractiveness, cultural values, or political view as well as other identifying features.”

In its statement on diversity in its mission and vision, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg asserts its “dedication to the diversity of human beings as well as diversity of ideas and viewpoints.” Respect and tolerance for different backgrounds, different abilities, different physical characteristics, different points of view, and different modes of self-expression are the cornerstones of our university. By accepting our right to be different and to be uniquely ourselves, we are able to call on a wider array of resources as we face new challenges. In diversity, we are strong.

We in the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library support and celebrate the diversity of our students and faculty, the university, our local community, and the world around us. Libraries actively strive to present multiple points of view. This is a principle that is well defined within the North American library community, as outlined by the American Library Association in the Library Bill of Rights. To this end, we will continue to host a wide variety of lectures and debates representing diverse points of view; we will continue to mount exhibitions on wide-ranging topics such as military history, Black history, Gay pride, Native American identity, Jewish culture, the Holocaust, Women’s History and more; we will continue to develop collections of materials that reflect a full range of viewpoints on important topics in support of the University’s courses and programs; we will continue to strive to serve all of our students in the ways that they need, such as our services to students with special needs through improving our Assistive Technologies Room and more.

The Nelson Poynter Memorial Library is a safe haven for all people and ideas. Come to the library (physically or virtually) where we will strive to make you feel safe to ask questions and explore the world around you, value you for who you are, and encourage you in your journey of self-discovery, self-expression and lifelong learning.

The Library this year will be developing a formalized diversity program. As we proceed, we will be inviting members of the campus and the broader community to take part and share experiences and insights. Drop me a note at hixson at usfsp.edu or call me at 873-4400 if you would like to be part of the discussion.