COUNCIL Year-End Report on a Topic Discussed March 24

A short form of this report was presented by the Chair at Council on March 24.--Ed.

Report of the Library Committee, 1998-99

(See committee membership and report appendices I and II.)

The charges for the committee this year were to review the multi-phase renovation of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library's physical facilities and to discuss and evaluate the issues of how the College House System will potentially increase access to the library and impact the use of the library's resources. The committee was asked to look into issues such as expanded hours, impact of staffing, and other ongoing needs.

The committee met 6 times this year and in an effort to expand the committee's working knowledge of the library system, each meeting was held in a different library and, for members unfamiliar with a particular library, tours were offered by many of the library directors. From the very first committee meeting and discussion, it was clear that the expansion and renovation within the Van Pelt Library was continuing on schedule. An update of this project with specific points concerning the Undergraduate Library [Rosengarten] was given by Karin L. McGowan at the March meeting of University Council.

Because the last undergraduate and graduate surveys that were formulated by the library were done so in 1996, a goal of the committee was to sponsor an event that would question students about their use and satisfaction of the library's services. Input from student committee members helped shape this idea and at their suggestion, 2 separate open forums were held. Student members felt that graduate and undergraduate students use the library system so differently that it would make for a confusing meeting if everyone attended at the same time. On Feb. 25th, a 2 hour session was held in the Van Pelt library for graduate students and on March 18th, a similar session was held for undergraduate students. Both meetings were extremely informative, for library staff as well as the committee and a summary of the issues raised at each of the sessions is included at the end of this report. One point was very clear at the end of the sessions, and that was that alot of information about the library is not reaching the student body. Part of the problem is that there is no good way or combination of ways to reach the majority of undergraduate and graduate students on this campus. Unlike other universities, there is no "required" library orientation by any department or school on campus and many students are on this campus for years before a specific course assignment drives them into the library or to use a library service they had not used before. The library hands out immense amounts of printed information about library services to students from the moment they arrive. When asked, most students admitted they never read it. The library's web page has been redesigned and is very user friendly, on-line suggestion boxes answer student questions and complaints on an almost daily basis. As a result of the open forum sessions that were held, the library has established connections with the GSAC and UA and hopes to solicit feedback on ways to reach more students on campus.

Discussions concerning the 21st Century Wheel Project consumed much of the committee's time. Because of the committee's charge this year, Ms. Debra Bucher, the library coordinator of in-residence programs was asked to be a guest member of the committee. Debra came to all of the years' committee meetings and was tremendously useful at helping us understand the issues and scope of the project. The Library pilot project started in Van Pelt College House in 1996-97, expanded to support 11 First Year Houses in 1997-98, and scaled up to the entire campus, including the three new College Houses in the High Rises, in 1998-99.

Library advising is one of four support portions to the 21st Century Wheel Project, Information Technology, Math, and Writing being the other three, and this is the third year of the project. There is presently a student library advisor (LA) in every dorm to provide a "first level" of assistance to students. LA's work under Debra Bucher's direction, helping other students use library databases, connect to the Digital Library, and understand library services and policies. These in residence LA's have undergone a training in the library and are paid for their work. In addition, LA's spend approximately 5 hours per week working at the new Information Desk at Van Pelt. This gives them an opportunity to develop their library knowledge and then students coming to the library see a familiar face when they first walk into the building. In general, students have responded well to being helped by a peer serving as an LA.

In addition, LA's use the "electronic library" which is an actual link to the various librarians. When a question is raised that a LA cannot answer, the electronic link is used to contact the appropriate librarian. That librarian will then get back in touch with the students within 12 hours. Because the project is still in its pilot stage, financially at this time, there can only be one student advisor per house. In some houses, that gives a ratio of 1 LA: 200 students; in the high rises, the ratio is 1 LA: 800 students.

Many activities are held to get freshman interested in the libraries such as a scavenger hunt held during College House Night but some have been minimally attended. It would be helpful if resident advisors (RAs) were required to attend such events since it would help recruit more freshmen.

The third level of activity in the library project involves reference consultations. These are coordinated by the LAs. This is where Ms. Bucher goes into a dorm [usually in the evening hours] and the students have a chance to meet a reference librarian and discuss their specific research and information needs. As you might imagine, these have been extremely popular, but to expand this activity, more librarians will have to be assigned to the project. It has been very clear that this project is still experimenting with different options. Dr. Paul Mosher, the head of libraries, sees this as just the "beginning" of the project. Once specific aspects of the project prove to be successful, then the library can decide whether or not to commit further resources to them.

Committee Recommendations

  • At least every 2 years, open forum sessions sponsored by the Council Committee on Libraries and the Library should be held for undergraduate and graduate students on campus. While the Library conducts its own student surveys approximately every 5-6 years, it's important that a group separate from the Library routinely poll students on their use of the system to find out if student needs are being met. Both the Committee and Library staff learned a tremendous amount of information from this year's sessions with the students.
  • Students are most appreciative of the Librarians and library staff. They commented frequently that the staff are great, helpful, resourceful, and knowledgeable.
  • Students are quite vocal that they want the libraries open more often. They asked in particular that the library lengthen evening and weekend hours in Fine Arts and Special Collections and lengthen weekend access to the Museum Library. For graduate students, the need is primarily for access to collections--many graduate students work to support themselves and have difficulty accessing what they need under the existing time schedules.
  • The 4 support segments of the College House System need to be coordinated to work together. At present they appear to work as 4 separate systems rather than complementing each other and sponsoring events together. One of our student committee members is also a writing advisor --she made numerous terrific suggestions this year to Debra Bucher and the committee, all of which are presently being used by the Writing Project. There must be a more efficient way of sharing such information. In addition, faculty who teach courses to freshman need to be tied into the House Project as well. For example, assignments could be designed that require greater library and computer use, necessitating student's use of information technology and library services.
  • There need to be more student library advisors per house, particularly for the high rises that house as many as 800 students. This may require additional financial support. Everyone knows many students procrastinate as much as possible, particularly first year students. When large assignments are due, it's unlikely that one LA can meet the needs of 800 students in a high rise--the end result is that students just won't use the service at times they need it the most.
  • Finally, there needs to be an evaluation process -- it's hard to judge the success of a project and also what areas to expand or eliminate when there is no ongoing evaluation of the system. While still in the "pilot project" stage, evaluation criteria need to be established for all portions of the College House System.

--Karin L. McGowan, Chair

(See committee membership and report appendices I and II.)

Membership of the 1998-1999 Library Committee

Chair: Karin L. McGowan, pediatrics; Faculty: William Brennan, chemistry, Patricia D'Antonio, nursing; Robert Gaiser, anesthesia, Ellis Golub, biochem-dental; John Dixon Hunt, landscape arch; Karin L. McGowan, pediatrics;Philippe Met, Romance languages; Donald F. Morrison, statistics; PPSA: Pamela Emory; Students: Michelle McClaskey, Michelle Tucker, Tom Morton, Courtney Bennett; Ex officio: Paul Mosher, vice provost & dir libraries, Elizabeth Slusser Kelly, dir Biddle library; Guests: Patricia Renfro, Debra Bucher.

Appendix I

Issues Raised in the Graduate/Professional Student Forum on the Library, February 25, 1999


Improve conditions in third floor stacks at Van Pelt; shelves are overcrowded and generally in disarray. Consult with students and other stakeholders before transferring materials from crowded places to storage.

Consider merging the Lippincott and Van Pelt stacks; division is confusing and redundant.

Remedy the chronic vandalism of journals; seminal articles in the literature are often razored out of Library volumes.

Systemize, as much as possible, the acquisition of slides; close gaps in the collection.

Keep acquiring electronic journals--they're great.

Improve the rebinding of old volumes: the present process trims away stitched binding ends, rebinds signatures with glue; these often then fall out, thus shortening the life of the books.

Study Conditions/Facilities

Demand for Moser carrels exceeds supply; continue upgrading carrels in Van Pelt-Dietrich Library(VPDL). Wired carrels are very desirable.

Graduate students want more dedicated study space. Examples included:

  • group study facilities
  • seminars with core collections, reference materials
  • quiet areas sequestered from noise, socializers, food debris.

Have security patrols deal more proactively with noise makers, food problems; install signs that designate quiet areas.

Too many computer stations are occupied for e-mailing. Find some way to inhibit e-mail use at the Look Up Center, wherever else computers have primarily research application. Create a designated e-mail center.

Allow students to reserve stations in VPDL's 5th floor lab.

Carpet the carrel area in Fine Arts or place felt on the chair legs to reduce irritating noise.

Deploy color copiers in Fine Arts and VPDL.

Place a dictionary and atlas in Current Periodicals, VPDL; install a clock within view of the periodicals reading area. Improve the sloppy newspaper storage system.


Provide circulation status in Franklin for items charged to carrels. If the system cannot identify specific carrels, then configure Franklin to provide a general indication that an item is charged to a carrel.

Provide e-mail, rather than snail-mail, overdue notices.

Consider standardizing graduate student loan periods and fine rates for all Libraries. Alternate: provide a standard carrel charge period.

Allow items to circulate to carrels regardless of item or carrel location.


Lengthen evening and weekend hours in Fine Arts; lengthen weekend access to Museum Library; need is primarily for access to collections. Consider opening VPDL 24 hours for research. Lengthen weekend/evening hours in Special Collections--many graduate students work and have difficulty accessing during existing hours.

Increase staffing in the Museum and Slide Libraries commensurate with collection growth and, particularly in slides, processing needs.

The staff are great, helpful, resourceful, knowledgeable: circulation, stacks, ILL, reference, special collections, bibliographers, staff throughout the libraries.


Raise general user awareness of library policies, service improvements, new resources, etc. Ideas offered include:

Create a "tip of the day" feature on the library web
Create an issues and answers forum on the Web to keep users appraised of library efforts to respond to their needs
Publish a series of informative bookmarks
Collaborate with GSAC in expanding communication with students.

Appendix II

Issues Raised in the Undergraduate Student

Forum on the Library, March 18, 1999

(Incorporates e-mail contributions of students unable to attend)


The removal of e-mail access from computer stations in the Class of 1964 Lookup Center (1st Floor, Van Pelt Dietrich Library [VPDL]) has heightened the need to provide more e-mail access points on campus, including the Library spaces. Students pressed for the Library to add more computers and printers, and to increase the range of software on Library computers to include FTP and teaching applications such as Maple.

Study Space

Students were most vocal about the need for well designed, highly accessible study space. In study spaces, students want comfortable seating, lighting appropriate to tasks, the ability to study in groups and individually (more carrel areas like those on the upper floors of VPDL). The expression of need seemed heightened by student's general dissatisfaction with study environments in the High Rises. Those present and most persons commenting by e-mail indicated that the renovation of Rosengarten is critical. They endorsed the plan to create a mix of quiet study and social areas in Rosengarten; several e-mails were emphatic about the need for quiet study. There was also a general interest in having an additional Library on campus available for late-night study. The Dental Library was raised as one possibility (because of its convenient location near the high rises); others suggested lengthening evening and weekend hours in Fine Arts. Undergraduates want food service in VPDL. If plans for a Library Cafe cannot be realized in the short term, they asked the Library to consider erecting a vending zone in Rosengarten as an interim step. Outside the Library, food service has become particularly skimpy since the closing of Houston Hall for renovation. Could the Library provide an interim vending service at least until Houston Hall reopens? The restrooms in VPDL are a source of universal dissatisfaction. The VPDL should increase the number of campus phones.

Security Issues

Students variously complained about overzealous and lax security. Sentiment was very strong for overhauling the security system at the VPDL exit. Staff don't check parcels consistently or thoroughly, arousing student cynicism and irritation with the process. The requirement that students sign in to use computer labs in VPDL was cited as another security frustration, since students aren't asked to present ID in computer areas in Lippincott or Van Pelt Reference. Other students, commenting through e-mail, complained of risks to personal property in VPDL and urged higher security, especially more stack patrols.


Steps should be taken to improve the availability of materials that are reported on the shelf; too often items are not findable despite a "not charged" status in Franklin. Franklin should also represent more clearly the status of materials held in Current Periodicals. The Library should step up conservation efforts to reduce the problem of mutilated books and journals. With regard to serials, the students said they use and strongly endorse the continued acquisition of e-journals. From e-mail, the library heard about the poor access to film and video collections on campus and the inadequacy of viewing facilities. To address these problems, they were asked to create a viewing space in the Library and catalog the MMETS collection in Franklin.

Instructional Outreach

Each student had had, and found very useful, an in-class presentation from a librarian on how to research a topic using library resources. They encouraged the Library to do more course-related instruction in the classroom. To orient undergraduates, the library was advised to first to orient T.A.'s., their main teaching cohort. An e-mail correspondent encouraged the continuation of the Wheel project and urged the library to publicize the program more vigorously.


As in other user forums, we found that students are not getting the message about Library resources and services. We sought their advice on how to better inform students--where, for example, do they go for information about campus resources. Undergraduates read the DP to stay informed; so they encouraged the library to advertise there. They liked the idea of the Library publishing a tabloid style information bulletin (perhaps distributed with the DP) at least once a term, with information about databases, policies and help topics. And they recommended the library use the various undergraduate list serves that are available. Further advice: package the information for lazy readers with short attention spans. Opinion was divided about the efficacy of using the Web to survey undergraduates for feedback, although they did support the general idea of using surveys to measure undergraduate opinion.


Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 29, April 20, 1999