Wednesday, August 01, 2012

“SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”… “You can’t bring that food in here.”… “We only have reference material.”

From the musky smell, to the hair buns, cardigans and complete silence, libraries bring to mind very distinct images and experiences. The staff members of the Ruth Ann Musick Library on the shared main campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College have broken that mold, making the library a place for everyone. 

“We just want to get students into the library,” said Charley Hively, Coordinator of Reference & Instructional Services. “Once they are here we know they will be amazed at what we have to offer. We want it to be their second home. A place they are comfortable to interact with our staff and to ask questions.”

To bring students into the library, the Ruth Ann Musick staff hold several annual events. “One of our biggest events each fall is held during Welcome Weekend. We have live music, food, games and giveaways. It is a great way to show students we are here for them,” Hively said.

Another annual project is the campus “Read” campaign. Inspired by the American Library Association’s campaign featuring popular celebrities and their favorite book, the FSU library staff wanted to feature the campus community in their own campaign. “We have been doing the campaign for six or seven years now and each year it grows. We invite students, organizations, faculty and staff to have photos taken with their favorite book. Electronic Services Librarian Toru Chiba creates the posters and then we provide a copy to each participant,” said Hively. Posters can be seen throughout the library and in offices around campus.

Emerging Technologies Librarian Kelly Bradish says that one of her favorite experiences during the “Read” campaign was when a young woman came into the library with a friend to have her photo taken. Once inside, Bradish heard the woman remark how surprised she was that the library carried adult fiction and offered far more than reference material. The student said that she would need to come back and see what else the library had to offer.

According to Hively and Bradish, one of the most surprising things for new visitors is that they can bring food and drink into the library. Not only does the library allow food and drink, they provide free food during finals week and for special occasions.   

During former Student Government President Meagan Gibson’s commencement address in May 2012, she commented that at FSU students actually looked forward to finals because it meant free food in the library. “I watched the audience when Meagan gave her speech and you could see the questioning faces in the crowd. People are so surprised to hear all of the creative ways we find to enable our students to be academically successful,” said Hively.   

“Through the leadership of our director, Thelma Hutchins, we are empowered to put our students first and to think outside the box to create an environment that students want to be a part of. We learn their names, help with research projects, and recommend popular movies and books. We really form a relationship with our students and we are proud of the role we serve,” said Hively.

While the goal of the library has always been to serve the campus community, Bradish explains that new technology is changing the demands. “We are seeing more people looking for job postings online, asking questions about e-readers, and wanting information in digital formats,” she said.

To meet this need, Bradish and Chiba, recently applied and received funding for a FSU Strategic Implementation Grant to purchase e-readers that can be borrowed.  “We want our students and community to be able to access content in a variety of ways and part of our role is to introduce new ways of reading to our community,” explained Bradish. “Many people borrow one of our e-readers before deciding to buy one of their own.”

Today, the library is far more than a brick and mortar building. Resources and information are available online, through social media and in lending communities like WVDELI (West Virginia Digital Entertainment Library Initiative). “The WVDELI is a consortium of ten public and academic libraries from around the state that have gathered their resources to provide digital content to our communities,” explained Hively. “We currently have over half a million dollars in electronic content available to borrow for free.”  

In addition to eBooks, WVDELI provides audiobooks, music, and videos. To borrow content, individuals must belong to one of the participating libraries. To see if your library participates in WVDELI, visit www.WVDELI.lib.overdrive.com and click on participating libraries. “While only ten libraries participate in our lending community, most public libraries offer similar lending opportunities and that information can typically be accessed from their website,” explained Hively.

For more information on the Ruth Ann Musick Library please visit http://library.fairmontstate.edu. You can also join them on Facebook and Twitter at FSUPCTCLib or click on the social media icons at the top of the library's homepage.