Stop the Hate: Tolerance and Celebration of Diversity

I have written before about the fundamental principles of librarianship that require at least tolerance and at best a celebration of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and points of view.

Every day, locally and nationally, we are confronted by examples of intolerance, hatred, and fear of anyone who is different or who has been defined as the “other”. It is imperative that all of us challenge our own fears and prejudices, stand up in solidarity with those who are being targeted, and denounce the acts of hatred, violence, and bigotry.  None of us should think that we are immune from bigotry and attacks, because the definition of who is the “other” and who is the “enemy” can change overnight.

The horrific slaughter on October 27 of eleven people worshipping at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh is, unfortunately, not a rare event. On November 1, anti-Semitic writings in a synagogue in New York City caused classes and scheduled events to be canceled, and sowed fear in the local community.  There are many incidents of threatening, violent, and offensive behavior around the country, and the world. Close to home, in August 2018 a video showing a man holding up a sign on a street in Boca Raton proclaiming that the Holocaust was a lie and accusing Jews of horrific acts caused fear and disgust among the local community.

On university campuses in Florida and beyond, fliers are found almost every day proclaiming the superiority of the white race or denouncing Jews, African-Americans, LGBTQ people, or some other group perceived to be a threat by the originators of the hate literature. Organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and many others have documented the rise in recruiting by hate groups that is happening on college and university campuses. 

Intolerance can take many forms, some of which may seem relatively minor or innocent. Recently, a student expressed displeasure to a library staff member because he took offense at an item in an exhibit on the T-Shirt as a Political Vehicle that represented a political point of view he did not share. That student failed to notice that the items on exhibit represented many different points of view and wanted to have the item that offended him removed.

Censorship of ideas, vitriol and vandalism against people we don’t understand, bombings targeting political opponents, shootings of people who are feared or considered offensive – these are all points on the same slippery slope of intolerance.

FAU’s Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education  posted a message following the slaughter in Pittsburgh that eloquently states what is in my own heart: “The outrage caused by this senseless, hatred-filled act has traveled far beyond the Jewish communities of this Synagogue, the families and friends of the victims, and first responders. It has united the entire community and been felt across U.S. and the world. We hope the world-wide response to this tragedy will encourage each of us to think about how we treat each other. Hopefully it is with respect to everyone regardless of who ever that is. Each of us has worth and something to contribute to our communities.”

The FAU Libraries stand in solidarity with the Jewish community that has been targeted in such terrible fashion in recent days. We stand in solidarity with any individual or group who has been shunned, shamed, humiliated, threatened, intimidated, attacked, or killed because someone feared or hated them. We are hosting our third annual Human Library event on November 8 in celebration of the diversity of our university and our community. You are invited to come help us stand up to hate and intolerance. Other events to help Stop the Hate will follow soon.

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Ongoing Renovations in Wimberly

Responding to student requests for changes in facilities and services is what motivates us in the Libraries. While some of the changes are major and some are relatively small in scope, they are all founded on a desire to create better, more functional, and more enjoyable spaces for the FAU community.

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Some of the recent changes made this fall include adding more charging stations, adding more white boards, and adding light filters to some of the windows by the study rooms on the third and fourth floors (shown below).

 

 

We have also added six new study rooms since last spring, including one designed for individual study and another designed to meet the needs of students with special needs who require privacy to complete some assignments.

On October 12, we also opened the new Diversity Burrow in its permanent home, just across from Dunkin Donuts on the first floor.  The space used to be the home of the former Circulation Desk (shown below)

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The former Circulation Desk in the Wimberly Library

That area has no been repurposed to provide an inviting space for students to gather, to study alone, to read, to hang out. The Libraries staff took great pleasure in designing the space and donating furniture and artwork, as well as buying books and furnishings specially chosen for the spot. As we are able, we will continue to repurpose and redesign spaces to provide more seating, better functionality, and greater comfort.

 

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Students enjoying the new Diversity Burrow in the Wimberly Library

Our next project is to complete the redesign of the 4th floor quiet study space. That project was due to have been completed before the start of the fall semester but delays mean that it will be opened later this semester. When finished, there will be additional seating, better access to power and natural light, a cleaner space with new flooring, and a variety of seating options.

We have many more projects being planned, all dependent upon finding some funds to carry them out. Keep checking in and let us know what you think as we move forward.

 

 

 

Diversity and Library Collections

This semester, the Wimberly Library opened up a space for its new Diversity Burrow. This is a collection of a few hundred books (some newly acquired and some pulled from the existing collection) whose purpose is to provide a quick, deep dive into the variety of perspectives and life experiences that are represented in our general collection. Its permanent home, which will be across from Dunkin Donuts,  will be a comfortable space for people to sit down, relax, browse the collection, and get an insight into the wide variety of books they can find in the libraries’ collections overall. For now, the Burrow’s temporary home is in the first floor lobby, next to the exhibit cases.

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Diversity Burrow Collection, photo by Sarah Elsesser

Libraries in North America are committed to building collections and designing services that meet the needs of all people from all backgrounds. This is especially true of academic libraries which have the added responsibility of building collections that support a wide array of academic programs. We are committed to principles of inclusion and diversity through our professional associations, such as the American Library Association (ALA). The Library Bill of Rights specifies that collections, services, and spaces should serve all members of the community and that “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues.” ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services provides resources, policies, and guidelines for all libraries to utilize in meeting the broad and varied needs of their communities.

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Comfy seating in Diversity Burrow, photo by Steven Matthew

The Wimberly Library’s Diversity Burrow is just one manifestation of the FAU Libraries’ efforts to “Develop a culture that serves as a model of diversity and inclusion for staff and for the Libraries’ patrons,” as articulated in our strategic goals. Come check out this interesting, eclectic collection of literature, history, art, and more and broaden your horizons! And, if you find something that piques your interest, check out the same call number range in the catalog or the stacks and you’ll discover even more.

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Diversity Burrow Collection, photo by Sarah Elsesser

 

 

Libraries and Democracy

Yesterday during my Donuts with the Dean event in the Wimberly Library, I had many interesting discussions with new and returning students about their hopes and plans for their academic careers and their lives. FAU’s students are focused, smart, and articulate.donutswith deanMany of the conversations touched on the importance of reading and staying informed and several students shared their concerns about various situations in the country. When I asked those people if they were registered to vote, the answer was “no.” Those conversations with those bright, talented young people inspired me to write this post.

There has been a lot of focus recently on the importance of the upcoming mid-term elections in the United States. By tradition and according to professional ethics, libraries in North America do not take sides in any political debate. Our goal is to help our users locate the information and the resources they need to make up their own minds about any issue.

Academic libraries, like the FAU Libraries, focus many of their services and programs on students. Many of our students are first-time or less experienced voters. To help our students (or any member of the FAU community) figure out for themselves how to evaluate candidates and understand the issues, we are offering a special workshop on October 18 entitled Election 2018: Researching Candidates and Issues.  This 50 minute workshop takes place in the Wimberly Library starting at noon. To register for the workshop, please use the online form.

The State of Florida has an online site for voter registration that explains what you need in order to register. It’s easy as long as you have identification. The deadline to register in Florida for an upcoming election is 29 days before that election.  If the deadline has passed, you can still submit an online application at any time and it will be processed for future elections.  If you’re a permanent resident of another state, those states will also have sites for online voter registration that you can find by searching the Internet. The Florida deadline for registering in time for the November 2018 election is October 9.

FAU’s Weppner Center for LEAD and Service-Learning also has a Voter Engagement web site with information and resources.

The Libraries will help you find the information you need to make up your mind for the fall 2018 and future elections. But only you can take care of your voter registration and then get out and vote!

Welcome to FAU Libraries and the 2018-2019 Academic Year!

Bienvenidos a las Bibliotecas de FAU! Bienvenue aux bibliothèques de la FAU! Byenvini nan Bibliyotèk FAU yo!

Welcome to the new academic year in the FAU Libraries.  For those of you who are new to FAU, we invite you to discover our spaces, our collections, and the services offered by our welcoming, professional faculty and staff at three different locations: Boca Raton, Jupiter, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. For students and faculty in Davie and Fort Lauderdale, our partnerships with Broward County and Broward College provide you direct access to library spaces and materials, in addition to being able to use all of the collections and services available to all FAU students and faculty at the FAU-run branch libraries.

For those of you who are returning, you will see that we have been busy while you were away for the summer.

Based on feedback from over 1100 students who participated in a spring 2018 library satisfaction survey, we have made or are in the process of making numerous enhancements to our library spaces and services.

  • We are in the process of renovating the fourth floor study area in Wimberly to provide a brighter, more comfortable quiet study space with improved access to power
  • We converted four staff offices in Wimberly to group study rooms, with a fifth one in the works
  • We are converting a former staff office space in Wimberly into a private study space for students with specialized accessibility needs
  • We purchased more white boards to increase access to this popular resource
  • We updated all the computers in the Alumni Alcove of the Wimberly Library
  • We have increased our collection of course materials on Reserve and have created a new tool for students to locate print and electronic course materials for their classes
  • We are removing the old circulation desk in Wimberly and will be creating a comfortable reading nook just inside the front entrance where students can relax and enjoy books on a wide variety of subjects
  • We will be launching a student advisory committee to help us review options for additional action items
  • We are partnering with Student Government to explore extended hours
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Students enjoying the great spaces in the Wimberly Library

The FAU Libraries are here to serve all the students and faculty of FAU, regardless of their field of study, their physical location, or their backgrounds. We are on the move, constantly evaluating our spaces, our collections, and our services. There will be many new exhibits, programs, and events at the Libraries this year. We encourage everyone to come check things out, provide us feedback, and use our services, either physically or virtually, to ensure your academic success as a member of the FAU community.

Check us out physically or virtually on our Website or on our Facebook page or other social media sites.

We are here for you!

Reducing the Cost of Course Materials

Back in May 2018 in a post on Textbook Affordability, I shared information about the costs that FAU students were bearing relating to course materials and how the costs were affecting their academic success.

As part of the Libraries’ efforts to help reduce the cost of the degree for students, specifically regarding the cost of textbooks and other required course materials, we are working to increase the number of printed textbooks available on Reserve. Because we have no funds for purchasing textbooks, we have been pulling print copies of required textbooks out of our open stacks and placing them on Reserve. We have also received donations or loans of textbooks from faculty to add to this collection. We are hoping that students will also start to donate their used textbooks to the library after they are finished with them in a Pay It Forward model.

In addition to the print collection we are building, library faculty and staff have worked to identify electronic resources that are freely available or that the library already pays for and link those to courses for this fall.  A working group has developed a user-friendly tool for checking by instructor or by course what course materials are available through the library, either in print or electronically.

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This tool for checking the availability of course materials through the library is called FAU Textbooks Fall 2018 and can also be found on the Libraries’ home page at  https://library.fau.edu/. Right now, it covers only the Boca campus but we hope to expand it over time if it proves useful.

We know that we need to have textbooks available for more courses and we also know that we need more copies of textbooks on Reserve for this to make a difference to more students.  There is much more to be done but we hope that this start will provide some relief from the rising cost of textbooks. We will also be continuing to request more funding from the University to buy textbooks, soliciting more donations or loans of personal copies, working with the Bookstore to help reduce costs, and partnering with the Center for eLearning to develop more course materials right here at FAU that would be free to FAU students. We are also getting ready to turn on a new collection of electronic textbooks that will soon be available through ProQuest.

Let us know how things are working for you and we will strive for continuous improvement across the University to help our students get the course materials they need at the lowest possible cost.

Textbook Affordability

It is well known and documented across the nation that the rising cost of textbooks and other course materials have made it increasingly difficult for students to succeed in their classes.

Data from the FAU Libraries’ student satisfaction survey conducted for three weeks in April 2018 revealed the average cost of course materials for FAU’s students, as well as the impact of those costs on student success.

As the following chart shows, 44% of FAU students indicate that they spend more than $300 a semester to purchase course materials or access codes.

 

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The impact of the high cost of these course materials is significant, with students telling us that they have registered for fewer course, they have dropped or withdrawn from courses, that they failed a course, or that they accepted getting a lower grade in a course because they did not purchase all the required course materials. As the following chart shows, over 70% of FAU students have at some point not purchased all their required course materials because of the high cost, placing them at an immediate disadvantage compared to their peers who were able to purchase all the materials needed for a course.

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The Dean of the Libraries chairs the University’s Textbook Affordability Committee which reports to the Provost’s Office and is charged to “Identify options for reducing the cost of textbooks for students” and to work with partners across the University to achieve a reduction in the cost of course materials. In partnership with the Center for eLearning, the Libraries are spearheading efforts to reduce the cost of course materials for FAU’s students by taking the following actions:

  • working to increase the number of textbooks and other course materials that are placed on Reserve in the Libraries, through soliciting donations, as well as requesting additional funds from the University to be able to purchase these materials
  • checking for free or library-owned or licensed materials that are required for each class and creating a tool enabling students to check what is available course-by-course
  • assisting faculty with identifying free or library-licensed digital materials that can be used for courses in lieu of expensive textbooks or access codes to commercially produced digital materials
  • developing a system of identifying low-cost or no-cost (beyond tuition) courses that would be identified in the course catalog
  • encouraging faculty (through a grant award process) to modify freely-available digital materials to use for their courses
  • encouraging faculty (through a grant award process) to create their own digital textbooks that would be free to students

The new program is known as ACT: Affordable Curriculum Today and is being put in place this summer for partial implementation for fall 2018 and full implementation for spring 2019. It is our hope that all the separate segments of this program will gradually result not only in lower costs for FAU’s students but also in greater student success throughout their academic careers.