Evolving Library Vision

Welcome, everyone, to a new semester of promise and opportunity!

As the spring 2020 semester at FAU gets underway, the Libraries are embarking on a journey of renewal and exciting change.

To guide us on our path, we recently completed a new round of strategic planning that brought our core values and services into sharper focus. Our 2020-2023 mission and strategic goals reconfirmed our commitment to being leaders, bridge builders, and innovators.

One of our seven strategic goals is to “Collaborate with university and community partners to foster technological innovation in service to the University’s mission.” Libraries have long been early adopters of technology, utilizing it to expand access to library collections and services. This year, we will be testing a number of new approaches to traditional services, including developing sensors to track temperature throughout the Wimberly Library so that students can find a spot that will be comfortable for them in the hours that they spend working in the library. We are also working to develop chatbots to expand access to on-demand services beyond the hours when staff are available to guide students, or when the number of people looking for help exceeds our staffing, or when someone simply prefers to investigate things on their own without having to ask a person for help.

We are also expanding access to new technologies, ensuring that all students, regardless of disciplinary focus, have access to cutting edge tools to help them be successful in their academic and post graduation careers. On January 23, 2020, we hosted our first Tech Showcase in the Wimberly Library, where the campus community was encouraged to stop by the Wimberly Library lobby to meet our tech experts and see what innovative technology we already have at the library, as well as provide feedback on what is of interest for the future. Staples was also onsite showing off some of the latest  laptops, desktops, VR headsets, 3-D printers and more.

Our commitment to enhancing the lives of FAU students through access to innovative technology is currently manifested through the GIS Corner and the Portal.

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Virtual reality experimentation in The Portal

The Portal, opened in the summer of 2019, is located on the first floor of the Wimberly Library and makes augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) available to the FAU community.  The primary setup includes four workstations equipped with Magic Leap One, HTC Vive Eye Pro and Oculus Quest technology.  Hours of operation are currently limited to four hours a day, Monday through Friday, but we are working to expand staffing and hours of operation and to make the service more widely known.

The biggest investment of the Libraries in technology that can change the lives of FAU’s students and faculty is evident in the Gruber Sandbox. Opening in mid-March 2020, the Rubin and Cindy Gruber Sandbox will enable students from all disciplines and all levels (high school up through Ph.D.) to discover how artificial intelligence can help them achieve their dreams and enhance their research. Unlike other spaces being developed elsewhere on campus, the Sandbox is not limited to students in a specific College or degree program. The Sandbox, the brainchild of College of Science faculty members Elan Barenholtz and William Hahn, has been planned by them and the Libraries to transcend any single discipline and to make possible continuous collaboration and cross-pollination. The projects undertaken will be student-driven, with the guidance of Drs. Barenholtz and Hahn, and with the financial support of FAU friends Rubin and Cindy Gruber, the Libraries, the University, and other community partners.  The Sandbox is foundational to FAU’s ability to achieve its vision as a leader and institution of distinction in artificial intelligence.

The Libraries have also made a renewed commitment to play a “leadership role in promoting diversity and inclusion for the Libraries’ patrons and staff.” This is achieved through continuous programming, such as the coming exhibit for Black History month that will feature multi-media selections of African-American blues greats from the Libraries’ Recorded Sound Archives. In April, the Libraries will be hosting its annual Human Library event, part of an international effort to help people learn about different world views and life experiences and develop greater tolerance and appreciation for those differences. In this event, individuals from different backgrounds are invited to serve as “human books” and share their experiences with students and community members so that participants may learn how to “unjudge someone.”

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Participants in the 2019 Human Library event

The Libraries will continue to innovate, stretch boundaries, and strive to improve what we do and how we do it in our commitment to “Champion student success through alignment with the University’s research and instructional mission.”   In December of 2019, we partnered with the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to host a pre-lecture meet-and-greet reception featuring Jon Meacham, presidential historian and Pulitzer-Prize winning author.

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Dr. Howard Weiner, Jon Meacham, Judy Weiner, Dean Michael Horswell, Dean Carol Hixson at the reception in the Spirit of America suite on December 15, 2019

We strive to support research and scholarship through hosting lectures and scholarly presentations, as well as by partnering with other campus units such as the Division of Research. On January 22, 2020, we are hosting the next installment of the Division of Research’s new Research Cafe series. On January 30, 2020, we are sponsoring and hosting Dr. Adrian O’Connor, distinguished associate professor of history from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, for a presentation highlighting some of the constitutional and institutional measures by which revolutionaries sought to make civil society sustainable, commercial society civil, and political society possible.

The Libraries are the place to meet up, explore new approaches, engage in research, and expand your horizons at FAU. Come join us and partner with us.

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Students studying on the first floor of the Wimberly Library

 

 

FAU Libraries Now and in the Future

The FAU Libraries have made many changes in the past four years and there are more to come. As we prepare for a review and refreshing of our strategic plan developed in the fall of 2016, we have been reflecting back on what we have accomplished.

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To help us keep track of our recent accomplishments, we have produced our first Annual Report for the 2018-2019 academic year where we showcase some of our spaces, services, partnerships, and people.

A recurring theme in our report is expanding access to tools and resources through strategic partnerships.

Serving students from all disciplines, the GIS Corner was launched in partnership with the Department of Geosciences to enable any FAU student and faculty member to have access to geographic information systems technology. Students and faculty are able to access the software and receive advice from qualified staff on how best to use the technology, expanding access to a resource that was previously available only to students majoring in Geosciences. The space (pictured below) was recently expanded to include more computers because of its increasing popularity.

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Another example of such a strategic partnership is with the Machine Perception & Cognitive Robotics (MPCR) Laboratory in the development of the Gruber Sandbox, coming in the spring of 2010, along with the Portal where virtual reality technology is already available.  The work of the MPCR Lab has received recognition around the world, most notably for Astro, the RoboDog, pictured below standing guard over the Donuts with the Dean event at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester. The Portal and the Sandbox represent expanded access to the most advanced technologies for any student, at any level, from any discipline. DSC_0818

The Spirit of America Fellowship is a partnership between the FAU Libraries, the FAU Department of History, and the Huntington Library in California that increases awareness of and access to the one-of-a-kind Marvin & Sybil Weiner Spirit of America Collection. Last year, three graduate students from across the country spent a month conducting research on materials from the Marvin and Sybil Weiner Spirit of America Collection, which has 13,000 printed items from 1501 to the Revolutionary era.

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The Annual Report highlights events, exhibits, new spaces, and improved services, such as a significant upgrade in disability services. To better serve students and community members requiring accessible services, several spaces in the Wimberly Library were renovated and services were improved. The physical space enhancements include increased accessibility to restrooms on the first and second floors, and an ADA study room. In addition, the ADA Services webpage was redesigned to make it easier to discover all the resources available. Staff also underwent training to ensure they were offering high-quality services to all students and faculty, regardless of their background and needs.

I encourage you to check out the Annual Report to see some of what we have been up to and to have a framework for understanding the ongoing evolution of the FAU Libraries.

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Expanding the Vision of a Library

As I said in my recent welcome message for 2019-2020, the vision of the FAU Libraries may be quite different from what many people expect. In addition to providing access to print and electronic books and journals and having people on hand to help students and faculty find what they need and make effective use of information, we strive to be a meeting place for people from all backgrounds and experiences. We are a crossroads, a bridge between disciplines (anti-disciplinary, if you will), a hub of intellectual activity, a bustling hive of activity and conversation, and a safe physical and virtual space for exploring the world and creating something brand new. More and more, we embrace the newest technologies, along with the tried-and-true, centuries-old technology of the printed book and hand-written manuscripts.

We bring this vision to life through many partnerships. One of the most exciting new partnerships for the FAU Libraries also has the potential of revolutionizing higher education. Through a partnership with the College of Science’s Machine Perception & Cognitive Robotics (MPCR) Laboratory, and thanks to the generosity of donors Rubin and Cindy Gruber, we are developing the Gruber Sandbox within the Wimberly Library to expand the MPCR Lab’s reach.   A 3400 square-foot space that was previously used for staff work space is in the process of being transformed into a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence lab.

Renovation of the space started in the summer of 2019 and is expected to continue into the spring of 2020.

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When it opens, it will be a collaborative, experimental space – a sandbox – for students of all levels, from all disciplines, to come together and shape the world with their research and their projects.  With the guidance of faculty mentors, high school students will be working side-by-side with undergraduates and graduate students.  The space is being designed to be flexible and to evolve as student needs evolve.

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Even now, the students and faculty working in the existing MPCR Lab are shaking up the world. A recent article appearing in the Daily Mail from the UK about one of their signature projects, Astro the RoboDog, has sparked intense interest globally. As the article notes, “Instead of being programmed in advance, Astro will learn just like a real puppy, with his simulated brain — a so-called deep neural network — being training by thousands of different experiences so he can perform various useful, human-like tasks.”

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(Photo by Alex Dolce)

Astro is just one of many examples of the uses to which this technology can be put. He will be on hand to greet students at my opening Doughnuts with the Dean event on August 29 at 10 a.m. in the lobby of the Wimberly Library.

In anticipation of the opening of the new Gruber Sandbox, the Libraries have worked with the faculty of the MPCR Lab to open a small virtual reality lab just across the hall from the Media Center on the first floor of the Wimberly Library, adjacent to the computer lab in the Alumni Alcove.  Called The Portal, this space is being set up to introduce students to some of the tools and platforms that will be available in the larger Sandbox. The Portal will open its doors to the public for the first time on August 19.

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Stay tuned for updates on the Gruber Sandbox and other exciting collaborations and partnerships throughout the year.

Welcome to the 2019-2020 Academic Year

Welcome to the 2019-2020 academic year at Florida Atlantic University Libraries! Bienvenidos! Bienvenus!

People often hear me say that I wish we could take the word “library” out of our name. My reasoning is that in the popular understanding of the word engrained in the minds of many people, a library is synonymous with a boring, stuffy, rules-bound place where people are forced to come only when they need an old, dusty book and where they are not permitted to talk, eat, smile, or engage in any normal human interaction. In that worldview, libraries are irrelevant and have already been or are about to be replaced by everything digital that is freely available on the Internet. We challenge that view of libraries every day in our three facilities in Boca Raton, Jupiter, and Harbor Branch, as well as with our partner facilities in Davie and Fort Lauderdale. The more than a million visits to our three facilities and the 1.2 million virtual visitors to our website in 2018-2019 are a testament to our continued relevance to the students, faculty, and community of Florida Atlantic University.

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We are a meeting place for people from all backgrounds and experiences, a crossroads, a bridge between disciplines, a hub of intellectual activity, a bustling hive of activity and conversation, a safe physical and virtual space for exploring the world and creating something brand new. We embrace the newest technologies, along with the tried-and-true, centuries-old technology of the printed book and hand-written manuscripts. We provide quiet nooks for individual students and researchers to dig deep into the

 

4th_after3scholarly record and craft their own contributions to that record, along with busy collaborative spaces where students engage in active learning and testing new ideas.

We cater to undergraduates, graduate students, residential and commuter students, those who spend hours every day in our spaces and those who use our resources over the Internet without even realizing they are using the library. We cater to first-generation-in-college students, side-by-side with world-renowned scholars who teach and carry out ground-breaking research that shapes our world. We engage with our community in a myriad of ways, promoting lifelong learning and exploration and open dialogue with people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences.

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The FAU Libraries have a vision of ever-evolving services and spaces to meet the needs of today’s students and faculty, in partnership with FAU’s Colleges, other University units, regional and national institutions, and the community. We do this with and on behalf of dedicated people who exude purpose and passion in their quest to create a new paradise for themselves and others.

You can track some of our efforts to reinvent ourselves as we describe how we are Reimagining the Wimberly Library. There are many changes that are not visible that include new programs, services, and approaches. You can check out some of what is coming up on our events calendar.

One of our goals in the coming academic year will be to emphasize our services for all students and faculty, regardless of background and experiences. We will be creating exhibits, hosting lectures, and sponsoring events that celebrate the diversity of our university and the community and that ensure that everyone knows they are welcome and valued.

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Come visit one of our facilities, connect with our dedicated faculty and staff, and see what we’re up to. If you have a concern or want to raise an issue that’s important to you, send me an email at hixson@fau.edu

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Black History Month

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February is Black History Month in the United States.  The origins of this monthly celebration and commemoration lie with Dr. Carter G. Woodson. As explained on the website of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, in 1915 Dr. Woodson “traveled from Washington, D.C. to participate in a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Thousands of African Americans travelled from across the country to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the destruction of slavery… Despite being held at the Coliseum, the site of the 1912 Republican convention, an overflow crowd of six to twelve thousand waited outside for their turn to view the exhibits. Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson decided to form an organization to promote the scientific study of black life and history  ,,, and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).”  After decades of celebrating with a week of exhibits and events every February, “In 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, the Association used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and from Negro history to black history.”

The FAU Libraries, both at the Wimberly Library in Boca Raton and the MacArthur Library in Jupiter, have mounted a multi-media exhibit celebrating the contributions of just a small selection of the “Ordinary and Extraordinary Americans” who have contributed so much to the history and culture of the United States.

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The title of the exhibit was inspired by a quotation from the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, who said, “A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.”  We selected thirty-two of these extraordinary African-Americans to feature in this year’s exhibit, from the past and the present and from all walks of life, ranging from President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama,

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to celebrated artists and writers, like Faith Ringgold, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler

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to politicians, past and present, such as John Lewis, Shirley Chisholm, and Kamala Harris

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to some of the legends of the Civil Rights movement like Jesse Jackson and Julian Bond

Slide7 to sports icons and leaders like Muhmmad Ali, Colin Kaepernick, and Serena Williams

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to scientists and explorers like Neil deGrasse Tyson and astronaut Mae Jemison

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to musical geniuses like Jimi Hendrix, Marian Anderson, Beyoncé, and Don Shirley.

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To see all the featured people, come by and experience the exhibit featuring items from our collections, look at the slideshow, listen to music or the speech of Julian Bond at the listening station, or pick up a button featuring one of your personal heroes. Check out their inspiring words and “make a difference about something other than yourselves.”

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Welcome to Spring 2019

The spring 2019 semester started January 5, 2019 and we have hit the ground running. To our new students, welcome to FAU and the FAU Libraries! To our returning students, here’s wishing you continued success. Whether you are new or returning, we want you to think of the Libraries as your home away from home – the place where you can always get help, where you can connect with friends and study partners, where you can focus on your assignments, where you can relax when you have a few minutes.

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Students enjoying the new Diversity Burrow in the Wimberly Library

The semester has been super busy for us in the Libraries and for our students. On January 10, I hosted the first “Donuts with the Dean” event of the spring semester in the lobby of the Wimberly Library,  an informal time for me to chat with students and hand out free coffee, tea, and Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts.

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We also reopened our newly redesigned quiet study space on the 4th floor of Wimberly, featuring new flooring, comfortable and attractive furnishings, greatly expanded access to power, and open views of the outside balcony with wonderful natural lighting. The before and after pictures tell the story more effectively than any words can.

 

It’s hard to believe that we are already three weeks into the semester! We have a lot planned for you this semester so keep coming in and telling us what you need.

Welcome back and good luck!

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.