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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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.

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’ Director of Information and Engagement

I am excited to welcome and introduce RJ Stamper who joined the FAU Libraries as the Director of Libraries Information and Engagement on January 22, 2018.

RJ Stamper

RJ Stamper

RJ came to FAU with nearly 15 years’ experience in higher education. He most recently served as the Director of Alumni Relations for Nova Southeastern University (NSU), overseeing all alumni activities and communications for close to 200,000 alumni.  Prior to NSU, RJ spent ten years at the University of Florida as the Director of Outreach and University Initiatives for the UF Alumni Association.

RJ is tasked with raising awareness and support for the FAU Libraries within the University, the State University System, and the broader community. This will include building partnerships, overseeing all library marketing and communication, as well as creating meaningful engagement opportunities for students, faculty/staff, and friends.

The mission of the FAU Libraries is to “connect people to knowledge and global communities of learning across time and space” and “enable users to explore, collaborate, educate, and create in their journey toward academic excellence and lifelong learning.” RJ has a proven track record of innovation, engagement and stewardship that will help us as we continue to develop into a center of collaboration on campus, ensure the academic success of our students, and create value for all FAU stakeholders.

Wimberly Library 5th Floor Transformation: Phase One

On Wednesday, May 31, 2017, the Wimberly Library opened up part of the 5th floor to unrestricted use all the hours that the building is open. For many years, the 5th floor of the Wimberly Library has been underutilized. The space had consisted of a few staff offices; collections for the Recorded Sound Archives and University Archives (which had a number of duplicative materials, as well as many items not within our collection parameters); an open seating/presentation space used fewer than a dozen times a year with a stage and a piano; and the attached Weiner Spirit of America suite which includes the University Club Boardroom, a vault for rare materials, and some exhibition cases. Phase One of the 5th floor transformation focused on the open space outside the Weiner Suite.

When events were previously held in the open space, there was limited, cramped seating and staff always had to unlock the elevators to allow people to come to the event and then relock the elevators after the event was finished.

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Crowded seating during an event held in the fifth floor prior to the renovation

At all other times, the space was accessible only to those staff who had a special key or fob that would allow the elevators to go to the 5th floor. With the rest of the library being so heavily used, with students having to sit on the floor between book stacks at times,

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Students sitting on the floor between book stacks in the Wimberly Library

the need for transforming the fifth-floor space was self-evident. The students sit on the floor throughout the building both because there isn’t enough space

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Students creating their own group-study space on the floor in another part of Wimberly

and they are trying to get access to the limited number of power outlets in a facility that was built before everyone had a computer or other device that needed power to run.

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Students cluster around power outlets in other parts of Wimberly

In the budget cycle of spring 2016, I submitted a request to “redesign the 5th floor of the Wimberly Library to expand public space and secure collections and staff work spaces in order to open it to students and the public all hours that the Library is open. The 5th floor is the only space sufficiently large and open to provide a venue for events and presentations. With this redesign, the Library could host a wider array of student, faculty, and community presentations, as well as provide much-needed open study space when not in use for events and presentations.” The University recognized the need and provided a generous, one-time allocation of $250,000 for the project. A donation of $10,000 from the Lifelong Learning Society in 2016 allowed us to get a jumpstart on the renovation with repainting the main room in the public area of the fifth floor.

A subset of the Libraries’ Space Allocation Committee, led by Special Collections department head Vicky Thur, worked closely with me and with the University’s Design and Construction Services staff, under the leadership of Director Numa Rais, to design the space, review flooring and furnishings, and oversee the project details. Before work could start, collections had to be de-duped, consolidated, and reorganized. Staff work areas were also consolidated to align better with their functions, and unused furniture and equipment were removed. A glass wall was pushed back (shown in the image below) and the open floor space was increased from 2166.72 square feet to 4362.72 square feet.

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During the renovation, lines on the old carpeting  show where the glass walls used to be

The vision that guided phase one of the fifth floor transformation, was to:

  • Transform a restricted-access space used for staff, storage, & occasional events
  • Develop an open, multi-purpose space to be used by students and faculty
  • Build in flexibility so the space can be easily transformed for events
  • Reduce storage space & increase the available square footage
  • Add new seating emphasizing aesthetics, comfort, & function
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Comfortable booths with lightweight privacy screens

  • Brand it as FAU space with colors & logos
  • Accommodate individual & group study
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Examples of individual and group seating areas now available

 

  • Increase access to power & wi-fi

 

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Installation of new carpeting and under-the-floor tracks that provide expanded access to power

  • Maximize use of natural lighting

 

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New seating areas that take advantage of natural light

  • Ensure good presentation capabilities

The study furniture is designed to be stacked and quickly moved out of the way when lectures and presentations are planned. The back wall and podium (shown in the image below) are in place for talks and for projecting presentations.

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Tables fold up and stack to reconfigure the room quickly for presentations and the wall serves as the projection screen with a speaker’s podium off to the side

On opening day of the new space, students immediately began to take advantage of the new space and make themselves comfortable, as we hoped they would.

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Student making herself at home in the new space

By fall 2017, the Libraries will have a policy and request form in place for special events to be held in the space, but with the focus being on events that are open to FAU’s students and that do not disrupt the students’ need to have adequate study space, especially during key parts of the semester.

The next phase of the fifth floor transformation will focus on redesigning the Weiner Suite and University Club boardroom to provide better exhibit space, a multi-purpose videoconferencing meeting room, and a lab where students can receive hands-on opportunities to work with Special Collections materials. Work is already underway, with the walls of the lab being built and the former board room being redesigned.

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New hands-on instruction lab for Special Collections under construction

The Libraries – and FAU’s students – are grateful for the University’s support in providing the funding to make this radical transformation of the Wimberly Library fifth floor possible. The Libraries have collected dozens of thank-you cards written by students to President Kelly thanking him for his support, illustrated by one card shown below.

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Thank you note written by a student on May 31, with name and contact information edited out.

Other work is planned or underway elsewhere in the Wimberly Library, including upgrading the group-study rooms and building a new single-point-of-service desk (combining three different service desks into one) directly in front of the front doors on the first floor. The FAU Libraries are committed to transforming space and services to meet the needs of today’s students and faculty. Check back here for updates as we continue to implement our new vision.

Images in this posting were taken by Carol Hixson, Patricia Koppisch, Vicky Thur, and Carol West.

 

Denim Day 2017

This spring, on April 4, 2017, the FAU Libraries partnered with the University’s Victim Services department to host Denim Day. Denim Day, commemorated internationally on April 26, is “an event in which people are encouraged to wear jeans (denim) in order to raise awareness of rape and sexual assault,” according to Wikipedia.   The movement stems from an Italian Supreme Court ruling in 1998 overturning a rape conviction because the victim wore very tight jeans and they ruled that the victim had to have assisted in the removal of the jeans and, thus, could not have been raped. Denim Day has grown as an international movement to raise awareness against sexual assault.

At FAU, the Libraries collaborated with Victim Services to host an event in early April (before students got engrossed in end-of-semester papers and finals) in which people were given an opportunity to paint denim jeans with messages of solidarity for victims of sexual assault.

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The event was very well attended by people from all backgrounds and ages taking part

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in the painting or in discussions or in learning about resources and services provided by FAU.

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Following the day of painting, the decorated jeans were hung in the Wimberly Library to

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continue to raise awareness about the seriousness of the issue and to demonstrate the Libraries’ support in making FAU a safe haven for students and community members from all backgrounds and with all manner of life experiences.

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Photographs courtesy of Patricia Koppisch, Information and Engagement Department, FAU Libraries.

One World, Many Stories

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On Tuesday, November 15, the FAU Libraries are hosting an event we are calling “The Human Library: One World, Many Stories.”

 

We have been planning this event for months to show our commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion, of making sure that everyone knows that the FAU Libraries are a safe haven for people from all backgrounds, walks of life, points of view. We are joining the worldwide Human Library movement which bills itself as a “worldwide movement for social change” and which “is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers. A place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.” At our event on Tuesday, we will be featuring 13 Human Books – FAU students, faculty, and local community members – who will be available for conversation with anyone who is interested in learning more about them, their lives, their point of view. The event starts at 10:30 and continues until 12:30, with four twenty-minute rounds of conversation where people can move to another area and “check out” a different book.

The FAU Libraries’ Human Library event seems especially important now in light of what has been reported on across the United States. This past week (November 7-13), there have been numerous reports from across the country of people being verbally and sometimes physically harassed or attacked because they were female, Muslim, Hispanic, African-American, gay, or different in some way. The Internet and the news media are reporting on many incidents, such as CNN’s Reports of racist graffiti, hate crimes post-election. As awful as this is, the reality is that there have been incidents like this across the country for a long time. A year ago, the New York Times ran a piece entitled Racism on Campus: Stories From New York Times Readers.

FAU’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is seen in its Strategic Plan for the Race to Excellence, 2015-2025  where it has identified Diversity as one of its nine Platforms and where it is stated that FAU strives to “Become the national model for the diversity of the student body.” FAU’s “Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs promotes the academic and personal growth of traditionally underserved students. The office collaborates with the campus community to create an institutional and community climate of social justice. We promote access and equity in higher education and offer programs that educate the campus about diversity.”

Others in the country are also taking strong stands in support of diversity and inclusion. The University of California System this past week issued a statement  that read, in part: “The University of California is proud of being a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty, and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.  Diversity is central to our mission.  We remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance.  As the Principles make clear, the University “strives to foster an environment in which all are included” and “all are given an equal opportunity to learn and explore.”  The University of California will continue to pursue and protect these principles now and in the future, and urges our students, faculty, staff, and all others associated with the University to do so as well.”

The FAU Libraries are making it clear that we stand on the side of diversity and inclusion. Our newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee is charged to make recommendations to the me as Dean of University Libraries on:

  • defining the scope of diversity needs within the context of the University’s and the Libraries’ strategic plans and mission statements
  • reviewing FAU Libraries services, collections, and technology to ensure full support for people of all backgrounds and perspectives
  • the development of signature events, services, collections, and exhibits to promote diversity and inclusion
  • improving the library’s work environment to ensure a safe, welcoming, supportive environment for all Libraries faculty and staff
  • arranging staff development opportunities to increase awareness and appreciation of different backgrounds and perspectives reviewing recruitment and hiring practices within the Library to promote diversity and inclusion
  • reviewing policies and procedures to remove obstacles and promote greater diversity and inclusion
  • developing the Libraries as role models for diversity for the FAU community

The Human Library event on November 15 is just one manifestation of our commitment to being a safe haven for all of FAU’s students, faculty, and staff. Come to us for help. Come to us to discover and celebrate who you are. Come to us explore the world in safety.

 

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