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.

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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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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.

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!