Searching for Life in Space
BY SEBASTIAN HUMBERT // MARCH 19, 2012 //
Sarah Shirshac ventures inside the Levin Memorial Library every now and then, but only to use a printer. And only when her personal printer and all other personal printers in her dorm are out of ink.
“I don’t like the library,” said the sophomore nursing major. “The book shelves are creepy and dark.”
Shirshac, who considers herself a brave person, isn’t the only student who’s generally unhappy with the library. Kyle Dailey, a senior communication major, believes the library “is not that comfortable of an environment.” Josh Pineiro, a sophomore communications major, went a step further, describing the library as “old looking, smelly and depressing.”
Kelly Ciccketti, a sophomore nursing major, said she actually loves the library but that it’s usually too loud to study on the main floor, and the lower level can feel like a crowded dungeon.
Edward Tallent, who arrived at Curry last August from Boston College, is no white knight looking to save the day. But the new library director is working to fix his department’s many deficiencies.
“I think the place was ready for a different way to look at things…a fresh perspective,” said Tallent, gazing up at the shelves in front of him being emptied, or “weeded out,” in the main study area of the library’s first floor.
Although this is only his second semester on campus, Tallent has already begun modernizing the fairly antiquated library and strengthening its Web site. Dealing with limited space and budgetary dollars, he has so far created a “single-point reference area”—essentially a larger front desk where students can have any book-related or research question answered—and installed a “super search” feature on the library’s Web page that enables users to search through multiple online databases at one time.
“I want students to see the library as a place where they can discover the resources they need for their work,” said Tallent.
The limited physical space the library offers will be one of Tallent’s biggest challenges. He said he’s doing his best to work around that issue in the short term, but wants to see more study areas so people won’t have to sit on the floor during busy study nights. He also hopes to create more group study areas so students don’t have to wait to use the “glass box” room.
“Students really crave those kinds of spaces,” he said. “By next semester, we hope to have more shelving gone and more study areas available.”
Tallent is also working to license a movie subscription service that would allow both popular and classic films to be streamed online through the Blackboard system. The current film collection at the library includes many VHS tapes and needs to jump several decades into modernity.
“There will always be new technology available,” said Tallent, referring to the evolution from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray.
Besides eliminating the upkeep and space required to maintain a physical film collection, Tallent said the new system would allow students and faculty to access films from any location on campus, at any hour. In addition, professors would no longer have to spend large chunks of time showing films in class and could instead require students to watch them as part of homework. That way, more class time could be used for deeper discussions and other work.
However, at a price tag between $15,000 and $20,000 per semester, it would be a significant investment and would require a larger collections budget, Tallent said.
Although the library is working to digitize more of its resources, Tallent said he is cognizant that the current Web site is hard to navigate. “There are a lot of text layers. Too much is buried,” he said, adding that he would like to build a feedback option into the site. Tallent wants to hear what students desire.So far, he has done so by adding an online forum where students can post questions for the library to answer.
However, he won’t likely be able to meet one of their greatest wants. And he knows it.
“Right now,” said Tallent, “we don’t have the space within the library to provided the comfortable kinds of services that we would want to.”