Adios!

This is my final message as Dean of the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library. I came to USF St. Petersburg in August 2009 to take over leadership of the Poynter Library. In the past five and a half years, we have transformed the physical and virtual space of the Library and have redefined the services we provide to the students and faculty of USFSP. We did this strategically, working closely with the students and with colleagues across the University to be sure we were anticipating and meeting their changing needs. We did this collegially, involving all library faculty and staff, valuing every individual’s contributions, celebrating each individual and group success. I am proud of every member of the Poynter Library family and what we have accomplished together.

In the last five and a half years, we have:

• built a welcoming, attractive, and highly functional space centered around students on the first floor of the Library and we have been gradually expanding the redesign to the second and third floors.
Students studying 2014
• developed a new service model that takes advantage of the skill and expertise of our front-line employees to help library users with their basic service needs and that calls in a reference librarian when there is the need for more in-depth research assistance.
Librarian helping student with research
• built the USFSP Digital Archive where we showcase the work of our faculty and our students and also store the institutional memory of USFSP.
• developed traditions for students like the Annual Halloween Costume Contest, Halloween contest the Annual Reception for New Graduate Students, the visits twice a semester from Therapy Dogs International, the Student Research Colloquium, and much more.
• engaged with the broader community through events and lectures, like the recent Living Books event in November 2014.
• expanded access to technology and online resources through the purchase of more laptops, the installation of open-use computers on every floor, the acquisition of collaboration workstations on the first and second floors, and the upgrade of our group study rooms.Collaboration station
• developed online modules for many basic library and information literacy needs so that students can learn how to carry out research, cite an article, avoid plagiarism, and much more when it’s convenient for them 24/7 and at their own pace.
• developed a robust professional development environment for faculty teaching online courses through the Online Learning and Instructional Technology Services department.
• And much more.

I now turn the reins over to Interim Dean of Library Deborah Henry.Carol Hixson and Deb Henry Deb has been a member of the Poynter Library faculty since 1988 and is well known and highly regarded across the campus and the state. She knows the ins and outs of the Poynter Library and USFSP and has been actively involved in planning for and making many of the recent changes happen. She is a thought leader who has always gone the extra mile in providing outstanding library service. For those of you who already know her, you will be happy to work with her in this new role. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Interim Dean Henry, you will be delighted to get to know her and work with her.

Adios, muchachos y muchachas! It has been a blast. My new position is that of Dean of University Libraries at Florida Atlantic University, starting in August. Anyone wanting to reach me there, can send an email with my last name @fau.edu

Best wishes,

Carol Hixson

Advertisements

National Library Workers’ Day: April 14, 2015

April 14 is National Library Workers’ Day, celebrated on the Tuesday of National Library Week for the last fifteen years.

This year, the American Library Association has created a moderated blog where anyone can write in to celebrate a library star – someone who has gone above and beyond to provide outstanding service, to inspire others, to connect people with each other and with the information they need to be successful. Because I work with an amazing group of people, I decided to nominate the entire faculty and staff of the Poynter Library by saying this:

Poynter Library Faculty and Staff from an academic library in St. Petersburg, FL, is a Star because the entire faculty and staff of the Poynter Library of USFSP have put the students of the university at the heart of everything they do. They bring energy, creativity, vision and dedication to the job every day, inspiring each other and the rest of the campus with their accomplishments and work ethic. The Poynter Library has a reputation on campus as being THE place to work because the people celebrate each other’s successes and support one another through the tough times. Together, this group has transformed the library into the true intellectual hub of the campus, showing the students, faculty, and administration just what a group of smart, creative people can accomplish when they have a shared vision.

Photo by Chris Campbell (cropped) (Photo by Chris Campbell, cropped)

If a librarian or library worker here or anywhere has inspired you, write in to the blog at http://ala-apa.org/nlwd/ and tell the world.

Growth of Digital Collections at USFSP

Since 2011, the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library has been creating digital collections that celebrate the history, scholarship, and community connections of USF St. Petersburg. To date, efforts have been focused on the USFSP Digital Archive which has almost 13,000 items (about 1/4 in Community and Campus Outreach, 1/4 in Scholarly Works, and 1/2 in University Archives) that have been viewed over 4,700,000 times from over 100 countries around the world.

Featured collections from and for the community include the archive of Forum : the Magazine of the Florida Humanities Council, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance publications, the archive of the student newspaper, The Crow’s Nest, the work of COQEBS (the Concerned Organization for the Quality Education if Black Students),

and Harbor Notes Weekly.

In the Scholarly Works section, you can learn about the work of 76% of our tenure-track faculty, see who some of our Faculty Experts are, enjoy some of our Faculty Research Lightning Talks, or see some of the cutting-edge research being carried out by our undergraduate and graduate students. In the University Archives section, you can learn about the history of USFSP, including the work of our Regional Chancellor Dr. Sophia Wisniewska or keep up on the ongoing work for the University’s Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan. As the digital collections mature, the Library is now preparing to create digital collections that feature the rare and unique materials donated to the Library in support of the Florida Studies Program, Anthropology, Marine Science, World Languages, and more. These are exciting times for the Library, the University, and our community.

If you want to be part of the effort, please visit the web site in support of the USFSP Digital Archive. Check back here for updates as we move forward.

Distance (Online) Learning at USFSP

USF St. Petersburg offers courses that are fully online, hybrid (a mixture of online and face-to-face), and entirely face-to-face in a traditional classroom. The determination of whether a course is online, hybrid, or face-to-face is made in accordance with guidelines established by the State of Florida. According to the State guidelines, an online course is one where “at least 80% of the direct instruction is delivered using some form of technology when the student and instructor are separated by time or space, or both (per section 1009.24(17), Florida Statutes (F.S.).” For the past five or six years, the percentage of student credit hours (SCH) for online courses at USFSP has remained fairly constant – right around 30% of the total SCH. In the spring 2015 semester, the breakdown of SCH at USFSP looked like this: with 29% of student credit hours being from online courses, 69% being from face-to-face (F2F) courses, and 2% being hybrid – according to the State definitions. The Florida Legislature authorized a distance learning fee in 2008 for state universities and community colleges. The amount of that fee was left to individual institutions to determine, as long as the fee did not exceed the additional costs of developing and offering online courses. The USF System, of which USFSP is a part, has set the fee for online courses at $50 a credit hour. The State has set guidelines for how the Distance Learning (DL) fee may be used, which can be found by reviewing the Florida Distance Learning Task Force Final Report. In general, permissible expenses are those “that represent the additional costs associated with developing and delivering distance learning courses … [and] may include:

  • specialized technology and maintenance (e.g., hardware, software licenses; technology consulting; hosting and network services)
  • development and/or acquisition (licensing) of instructional content for distance learning courses
  • distance learning program development and accreditation
  • distance learning program quality assessment and control
  • faculty development and support for distance learning courses
  • distance learning student support services
  • testing facilities and support
  • distance learning administrative & operating costs
  • course management system server, database, and support staff
  • instructional material”

So, how has the DL fee been used to support distance education at USFSP? The money has been used in all of the ways that the State has indicated are permissible expenses. Specifically, the fees support:

  • instructional designers working with faculty in all the Colleges to design high quality online courses;
  • student assistants to help faculty provide a high level of interaction with students in a class and ensure that the class is operating smoothly;
  • an extensive program of training and professional development for staff and faculty so that they can continue to deliver the best courses and take good advantage of the latest and most appropriate technology;
  • the development of a portal for all student services focused on online learners;
  • captioning to enable students with hearing disabilities to take full advantage of online courses;
  • membership and certification offered through the prestigious and internationally recognized Quality Matters organization to provide assurance that USFSP courses and instructors are meeting the best standards for online learning
  • the upgrade of the Distance Learning Studio where classes are videotaped and digitized for online courses and the purchase of a wide range of specialized equipment and software across the campus;
  • and much more.

The use of the DL fee at USFSP is governed by policies and procedures established and reviewed by the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the four Deans of the University. This effort is also overseen by the Distance Learning Steering Committee, which has administrative and faculty representation from all the Colleges, the Library, Student Affairs, Graduate Studies, Faculty Senate, and Student Government. There is currently a vacancy in the position of Director of Distance Learning at USFSP and I as Library Dean have been filling in that role, in addition to my other responsibilities. We have made a great deal of progress in the past few years but there is still much work to be done. The Library offers a wide range of services to support students and faculty engaged in online learning at USFSP, some of which are detailed on our web site. I invite students and faculty to contact me at hixson at usfsp.edu if they have any questions or concerns.

All Lives Matter

In a January 19 article on the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) blog, The Hub, Alegria Barclay wrote a piece entitled “Black Lives Matter: Building Empathy Through Reading” that outlined a role for librarians that challenges a more traditional view of librarianship and promotes a role of actively influencing our readers. She wrote:

“I feel strongly that it is an essential part of our calling to do more than simply recommend books to our teenage patrons; we must promote, persuade, and provoke our young readers to pick up those books that broaden and challenge our understanding of what it means to be another and to be ourselves. To echo the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, we need diverse books because reading can change the world one perspective at a time. And change must come. And it will come because reading is an act of communication that can and does open minds and hearts, transcending our often irrational and unfounded fears to create newfound empathy and compassion.”

While librarians, like journalists, are committed to providing access to a wide array of information and points of view, does that mean that we must remain impartial? Like Ms. Barclay, I have been concerned about the ignorance and complacency that I encounter all too often when it comes to understanding what people from non-majority backgrounds experience on a daily basis. And like her, I have felt the need to poke and prod and get people to think and question the world around them. I think helping to develop critical thinking skills is one of the main reasons that libraries exist, especially academic libraries. And learning to think critically about one’s own assumptions is surely the foundational critical thinking skill.

As a white woman who is now firmly entrenched in the more privileged end of the middle class, I seldom experience discomfort when I enter a room – unless I consciously seek out an experience that puts me in the minority. Although I came from a poor background and was the first person in my family to go to college, I am now able to “pass” in the world of privilege – at least, if I keep quiet. Yet, I continue to seek out those uncomfortable experiences where not everyone looks and sounds just like me because that is where I can still grow and change. That is what lies behind my love of travel, what lies behind my study of foreign languages, what lies behind the diversity programming that this library has offered and continues to develop.

After recently seeing the film Selma which chronicles a key part of the Civil Rights Movement under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s leadership, I have challenged myself to read more, think more, and do more. And I pledge to share my reading and thinking with the students and faculty of USFSP and the broader community. I’m still thinking about how best to do that and welcome suggestions and feedback from everyone, either here on this blog or to my email at hixson at usfsp.edu.

To close this posting, I return to Ms. Alegria and the first paragraph of her article which so eloquently sums up the beauty of reading and the value in being a librarian:

“Librarians are peddlers of empathy. We understand that reading is a chemical reaction between reader and writer producing a visceral engagement with the characters that allows us to live the lives of others, if only for the space of a novel. We know that when we give a book to a patron, it can be at once an act of revolution, a strike against ignorance, a catalyst for change, a necessary escape, a life-saving event, a clarion call, a moment of peace, or simply a riveting read. Whatever it turns out to be though, it is always founded in empathy. As readers, each book allows us to, at turns, discover, reaffirm or reimagine what it means to be human.”

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!

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.