Levin Library Introduces New Tech Lab

BY COLE MCNANNA // MARCH 10, 2016 //

Within the confines of the Levin Library, tucked away in the corner of the Quiet Study Lounge on the basement floor of the building, lies the Learning Lab.

Curry College’s newest advancement in learning aids holds four computers stocked with assistive technology as well as a printer and scanner to help students with learning disabilities. On top of that, there are headphones set aside for students to block out noise and better focus on any task at hand.

The assistive technologies loaded on these computers include Dragon Naturally Speaking Speech Recognition Software, which allows users to speak their words as opposed to typing. On the other end, there is software called Kurzweil 3000, which speaks texts to its users.

There are also two systems that magnify the reading text, as well as software that allows users to create a visual representation or diagram of their thoughts, called Inspiration.

All of these resources are commonly used by members of the Program for Advancing Learning (PAL) and students who are registered in the Office of Disability Services (ODS) with Christopher “Chip” Kennedy. However, all Curry students now have access to these assets through the new Learning Lab.

Curry College Learning Lab located in the basement of the Levin Library // Photo By Cole McNanna
Curry College Learning Lab located in the basement of the Levin Library // Photo By Cole McNanna

“The purpose of this is so that assistive technology is available for all students,” said Kennedy. “Obviously it’s meant for students with a disability…but it’s really meant for any student who wants to utilize that.”

This center of learning is fairly new—it opened the beginning of this semester—but it has been a project in the waiting for almost five years.

“This has been something that I’ve been pushing for for about four and a half years now,” said Kennedy. “I’ve been pushing for there to be a computer lab on this campus with assistive technology.”

A factor that held back their advancement was the old organization of the library, which had taken use of the room that currently hosts the Learning Lab.

Once the rooms were available, there was a process to determine the best use for the newly vacant rooms. Ed Tallent, the Dean of Faculty and former director of the Levin Library, teamed up with Kennedy to create the foundation for the Learning Lab and noted that there was some competition for the new space.

“There were multiple possibilities, as there were multiple space needs both in the library and in the college,” said Tallent. “Some of the possibilities were more using the space for more traditional library space needs, such as study spaces.”

Tallent went on to deliver a positive verdict, however, saying, “The happy ending is that the library space ended up being used for a college-wide need. That is not always the result of space decision-making processes.”

Once all the pieces of the puzzle finally came together, the prospect of recruiting students took center stage as the primary factor of its nonuse. With it being such a new resource, many students did not (and still do not) know that it exists.

Kennedy and his staff in turn created informational brochures outlaying the premises and technologies available to students. They placed these brochures in the PAL and Admissions buildings to promote to current and prospective students. They also sent out an email to faculty and staff at the beginning of the semester, and advertise on the biweekly email detailing the events coming up on campus.

Disability Services // Photo Courtesy of Curry College
Disability Services // Photo Courtesy of Curry College

Kennedy knows that these are simply growing pains. “It is taking some time, and obviously not everyone is going to use it immediately,” he said. “It’s been a gradual process and as the semester goes on, there’s going to be more students who will be utilizing it.”

Another factor that may hold them back is their location in the Library. However, Kennedy notes that it is crucial to its success.

“I think it’s a great location,” Kennedy said. “It’s good because it’s kind of set back and gives students their privacy, especially in utilizing the different assistive technology. By having that privacy, it’s actually most ideal.”

They have attempted to do something similar to this in past years when they had assistive technologies on two computers on the main floor of the library. “It got no use because it was right in the heart of the computers and the chaos,” Kennedy said. “It didn’t give students any privacy.”

These assistive technology softwares are not new to campus, however those computers are in the PAL building, which is only open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Moving to the library meant having a Learning Lab that is open for over a hundred hours during the week, including weekends.

Kennedy noted that he is excited to do more promotion, with not only current students but also prospective students coming to campus for Accepted Students Day in April.

Levin Library Gets Into the Halloween Spirit

BY JAMES BONNEAU // OCT. 26, 2015 // 

Halloween festivities aren’t just for kids. Levin Library will be bringing the Halloween spirit to campus on Wednesday, October 28th from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. There will be fall-friendly, free refreshments and a storytelling contest. Costumes aren’t required, but strongly encouraged.

This event is one of the first for Levin Library. The Library’s Marketing and PR intern Matt Gleason said, “The Library typically doesn’t hold events like this, so it’s something new.”

For the event, Levin Library’s main floor will be transformed into a room of horrors. Librarian David Miller and Professor Katherine Morrison will be telling their scariest tales. If you’ve got a scary story of your own to tell, stop by to share your haunted experience.

PHOTO BY CRISTIAN IOHAN STEFANESCU, CREATIVE COMMONS.
PHOTO BY CRISTIAN IOHAN STEFANESCU, CREATIVE COMMONS.

The best storyteller will receive a prize, which is rumored to be Dunkin Donuts gift card. Even though the contest is focused on scary stories, all stories are welcome.

Gleason said, “Funny and other stories are welcome.”

All are invited to attend the event, with or without a story to tell. In order to attend the Halloween event, you must sign-up first. Sign-ups are at the front desk in the Levin Library.

If you’re dying to get as much use as possible out of your Halloween costume or just really enjoy free snacks, stop by the library on the 28th to show your Halloween spirit.

As for the free refreshments, Gleason said, “There will be apples, apple cider and candy.”

iPads for Rent

BY ALYSSA MCCANN // DEC. 12, 2012 //

If you plan to ask Santa for an iPad this Christmas, you may want to reconsider. The Levin Library has already purchased 10 of them, and will rent nine out to students, faculty and staff starting next semester.

The Levin Library will be renting out iPads to students, faculty and staff starting next semester. // COURTESY PHOTO //
The Levin Library will be renting out iPads to students, faculty and staff starting next semester. // COURTESY PHOTO //

According to Ed Tallent, director of the library, the rental program is something of a test, to see how students will use the devices and how the devices might support and facilitate learning.

“Students will want to use these for a variety of things, and that is perfectly acceptable,” said Tallent. “We want the user to tell us how they were used and what value they have.”

Each iPad can be rented for only one week, but users can personalize the device with apps of their choosing. There are very few limits, Tallent said. If a student wants to upload game apps or social media apps, so be it. The college’s goal, he reiterated, was to better understand how students use the devices.

Nicole Deltorto, a sophomore management major, said she is excited to give them a try. “I think the iPads in the library are a great asset to the college, especially for a student like me,” she said. “I could use the iPad for presentations in my management classes.”

Kerrin Thomas, a sophomore education major, similarly said he likes the idea of renting iPads, but believes more should be available. “More than nine students will want to rent at a time, and a week is not long enough to make the iPad personal,” she said.

Some colleges are far beyond the trial stage. Here in Massachusetts, for example, every full-time student and faculty member at Regis College in Weston, received an iPad this fall. Moreover, students are allowed to keep their iPads after they graduate. According to the college, it hopes to replace most hard-copy textbooks with digital versions that can be used through the iPads, both to save students money and to facilitate greater connections between faculty and students.

Each iPad cost Curry $499, plus an additional $99 for the Apple Care support package. The 10 iPads combined for a total cost of approximately $5,980, including the Apple Care support package. The library also had to purchase a storage and charging cabinet, carrying cases and additional items.

But according to Tallent, the hardest part of the trial process to date was figuring out how users can customize each iPad with apps of their liking. Typically, iPads or iPhones are registered individually through personal iTunes accounts, and users simply download apps from the iTunes Store, either for free or for a small charge. But given that the iPads will be shared, accessing and maintaining apps is a bit more involved. Tallent added that the library would budget some money to purchase apps, if users are interested in certain ones. Word processing apps such as Pages and Templates will be available on each iPad upon rental, he added.

To ensure the long-term success of the program, users will be liable for any damage to the device while it’s in their possession. Also, there is a late-return fee of $25. If an iPad is more than three days overdue, it will be considered lost or stolen and a full replacement charge will be assessed to the individual’s financial account, Tallent said.

At the end of the date, though, the point of the rental program is similar to all services the library offers. Said Tallent: “We want to connect with users, support their academic and leisure work, and deliver the collections and services in an effective, efficient and ubiquitous manner.”

Levin Goes Unplugged

BY BRANDON BLOM // APRIL 24, 2012 //

Have you ever waited until the last minute to write a paper? And when you rushed to the library to print it out, did you find that a one-minute process quickly became 10? Having to wait around for a free computer often leaves students fuming and, worse, late to class.

Obviously, waiting until the 11th hour to write and print an assignment is a bad idea. But so is failing to adopt new technologies that help make life easier.

Over spring break, Curry’s Tech Center tested a new wireless printing system in the Levin Library that will allow students to simply bring in their laptops and print to one of the building’s three public printers. The one-minute process should be back to one minute again.

Library Director Ed Tallent and the rest of the library staff are working to make the entire building more user-friendly, with better study spaces and electronic resources. “My hope is that students will use the library more,” said Tallent. “It’s easier to get assistance in the library than it is in your dorm room.”

But according to Tallent, that’s not the driver behind the new printing system. “It’s an expected service for new students coming in,” he said.

Currently, students who want to print something in the library must use one of the facility’s desktop PCs or iMacs. Prior to that, though, they must transfer their documents from their personal computers to a flash drive or email their documents to themselves.

“It’s a hassle,” said Christian Demaria, a freshman communication major. “There are a lot of steps and it will be much easier to just go in and hit print.”

That’s the idea behind the new system. All of the kinks are not yet worked out, Tallent said, but students won’t likely have to download anything to enable wireless printing. All they would need is a laptop with wireless capability. “We are trying to make the system as simple as possible,” he added.

The college’s printing policies would stay the same: 500 pages per semester are allowed before charges apply.

Tallent said the goal is to have wireless printing available before the end of the semester, and that it might be expanded to other places on campus, such as the Mac labs in Hafer and Kennedy, in the future.

James Oliver, a sophomore criminal justice major, said students routinely take advantage of the library’s printers and the upgrade would enable more people to do so more efficiently. He added that a wireless system is a good idea. “That’s what I was hoping they would do,” Oliver said.

For his part, Tallent wants to change how students view the library and believes employing technological advances is one way to do that.