In Support of Student Success

A Message from the Dean of Cheng Library, Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah

Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah, Dean of Cheng Library

The fall semester once again sped past us at blazing speed as we worked to acclimate new students and embrace returning ones. The lively activities and engagements that account for the vibrancy of our campus and university life continued its unending trajectory and we, true to long-standing practice, continued our service and commitment to student success. The holidays arrived, but life returned to academic normalcy just as fast with the commencement of the spring semester. We can now reflect on some of the things that transpired at Cheng Library during the fall semester and the following intersession, and contemplate activities for the spring and beyond.

Our students enjoyed the excellent services and commitment they have come to expect from Cheng Library’s faculty librarians and staff. The Library continued to provide an appropriate atmosphere and spaces for learning, researching, socializing, and networking. We relaxed food and beverage policies, removed prohibitions to eating and drinking in the building, and invited library users to work with library staff to maintain a clean and inviting environment in the library. Our users did not disappoint. But we did also see the need for heightened vigilance with garbage disposal as increased activities led to a surge in the waste we had to dispose of. Thankfully, Campus Facilities came to our aid with additional custodial staff. However, we still encourage our users to work with us, as they have done so far, and to dispose of waste appropriately to help maintain desired cleanliness levels at their beloved library. 

There has been very active use of our increased number of study rooms. Easier access to the graduate study room appears to have significantly improved the use of that facility by our graduate students as well.  While national trends have shown progressively declining circulation figures and gate counts in academic libraries, the story at Cheng Library has been one of steady numbers in both categories. Other data on use of facilities and services show an uptrend. It can safely be argued that even in this oft proclaimed “Age of Google” and ubiquity of virtual spaces and resources, the academic library as place continues to provide value and the institutional services and functions it offers provide vital support for the success of our educational enterprise and its primary goal of ensuring student success. There is increasing evidence to support this.

Reporting on the assessment activities of several North American academic libraries, Karen Brown and Kara J. Malenfant (“Documented Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success: Building Evidence with Team-Based Assessment in Action Campus Projects,” 2016) concluded that there was compelling evidence to support the following conclusions: 1. The library has a positive influence on student success; 2. Library instruction correlates positively with overall undergraduate academic performance; 3. Library instruction strengthens general education outcomes; 4. Library use in general (such as circulation, library instruction session attendance, access to online databases, study room use, interlibrary loan, etc.) leads to higher levels of academic success; 5. Library partnerships with other campus units (tutorial and writing centers, academic enrichment, etc.) yield positive benefits for students; 6. Academic libraries facilitate “academic rapport and student engagement.”

I believe it perhaps has never been truer that, “When the repositories and gateways to knowledge and familiarity with their use affects efficiency of access to and use of knowledge, then training to ensure such familiarity becomes an essential part of the activities that define the teaching-learning-research mission of higher education” (Edward Owusu-Ansah, “Knowledge Organization and Dissemination, and Knowledge Navigation and Application: Where the Classroom and the Library Meet in Higher Education,” 2004). The importance of the instructional and knowledge facilitation functions of the academic library to the efforts and success of our students and overall quality of the academic experience is what Cheng Library continues to be committed to. In that vein, we continue to provide a vibrant reference assistance program in person and by phone as well as e-mail; we offer year-round, non-stop coverage of this vital assistance through a chat format that covers all the days and hours the library is closed, we conduct library instruction sessions for most of our Pioneer Success Seminar sections, offer course-related library instruction upon request, and hold individual research appointments.

On the resource side, we have expanded our e-collections and improved the efficiency and response time of our interlibrary loan service, increased our online research guides for specific courses and areas requiring assistance, and we have improved availability of collaborative learning spaces with more study rooms and enhanced their ease of use with  self-booking solutions. We look forward to further enhancements in our environments, services, and the body of knowledge that we facilitate access to. We anticipate growing  our collaborations with various campus constituencies to ensure we are making the greatest contribution to the success of the university and its students. We look forward to partnering and collaborating with our classroom faculty, full-time and adjunct, to ensure the information literacy competencies of our students, guide them through assignments, and support their learning and research. We are hopeful that such outreach will be embraced and that we can work even more collectively toward improving the information literacy and research skills of our underclassmen, polishing the research expertise of upperclassmen, and supporting the research efficacy of our graduate students. 

We invite all classroom faculty to consider what partnerships with Cheng librarians can do for their students. We invite them to engage us in a collaborative effort to improve student information literacy and lifelong learning skills, and commit to adjusting to the preferences of the classes and instructors that engage our expertise in the development of their students. We look forward to that engagement throughout our students’ progression from their introductory classes to their capstone experiences.  We invite students to look out for the open workshops offered by the library to enrich their academic experience and encourage them to take advantage of these opportunities. We invite them to consult with our librarians on their research assignments and projects and to proactively solicit our participation in their success.

Libraries are by their very nature academic spaces that promote academic engagement and the success they generate. We encourage all of our students to actively use the spaces the library provides and to embrace them as academic settings that create the right environment for learning and intellectual growth, support contemplation, and engender fruitful academic interactions. We look forward to seeing our students and faculty avail themselves of the myriad opportunities the library offers here at William Paterson University.

February 06, 2017