WWU Libraries evolve to meet students' academic needs
No shushing: The library is where students interact with technology
-- and each other. Photo by Becky Tachihara/WWU
Dean, WWU Libraries
Libraries at universities like Western are changing. No longer passive warehouses of books, card catalogs and shushing, university libraries are active learning spaces, where students interact with information and with each other.
Libraries are different because students study and learn differently today. Students work collaboratively to prepare presentations, study for exams, perform research and interpret information from a plethora of sources. They need both traditional quiet study spaces and lively, computerized group study rooms. They are technology experts who expect information to be available on the devices they choose to use; it falls to librarians to provide the information students need when and where they need it.
Understanding students' penchant for iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices, we deliver our services with these technologies in mind. We now answer reference questions via text and Twitter. In September we introduced a new library website which is more user-friendly and interactive. And many of our librarians hold office hours in the departments they support, to better serve students who need help finding -- and evaluating -- information. We also created Viking Village, a social networking platform for students to communicate and share information about the Western experience.
Meanwhile, library spaces themselves are changing. More often than not, students come to the library to use technology, study and interact with other students, rather than simply to utilize our physical resources. As a result, we have become an intellectual center for the campus.
In the last two years we have launched the development of a learning commons on the main floors of the library to bring academic support services closer to library services. The Student Technology Center is now located next to our reference desk, allowing students to get assistance finding information and using technology to present it. The Writing Center is now part of the Libraries, physically and organizationally, increasing both traffic to the center and the Libraries' impact on student learning. And this past August we opened Zoe's Bookside Bagels, a gathering place where students can get food, meet with other students or faculty, and study and converse in a relaxed atmosphere.
Meanwhile, librarians are becoming more active in the classroom. Western Libraries offer seven classes for credit which teach students about information literacy: how to find, use and evaluate information. We also collaborate with faculty to develop instructional sessions, tutorials, and web guides to assist students in finding the best sources for their assignments.
But the Libraries remain a key information source. Western Libraries work collaboratively with libraries in Washington and Oregon to provide library materials within a few days. Thanks to such collaboration, it becomes less important for libraries to own every item ever published, but more important to differentiate themselves through unique collections. We have some of the finest unique collections in the state, including the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, the University Archives, and Special Collections. With the help of private donors, we are digitizing these collections, including the entire run of Western's student newspaper, the Western Front, and its former yearbook, the Klipsun. We are also exploring the creation of a campus repository of digital scholarship produced by Western's faculty and students, sharing our uniqueness with the world.
We pride ourselves on the connections we make – connecting students to information, with librarians and with each other -- and providing an environment where such connections can occur. Come visit us and learn more about how we serve your students and support their learning experience at Western.