Your Library at Your Service: Embracing Transformations for Better Outcomes - A Message from the Dean of Cheng Library, Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah

Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah discusses recent developments and pending changes at the Cheng Liibrary.

EOA LAs the current academic year comes to an end and we prepare for the rejuvenation that summer brings in preparation for yet another academic year, it is time to reflect on what we have achieved and acknowledge the resiliency of the academic enterprise of which we are a part. Since 1855, William Paterson University has prepared young minds for the challenges of the future, endowing them with knowledge and the learned reflexes to succeed in a world that has always depended on their knowledge, skills, and creativity. That tradition continues and the institution of the academic library has been as central to the engagements that define the academy as any other part of this unique human construct. Our tradition and commitment as enablers of learning and stewards of scholarship and discovery has been as enduring as American higher education.

Over the ensuing centuries, and particularly in recent decades, we have witnessed persistent transformations in the information and scholarly communications landscape. The rapid growth of the information and knowledge that underpins what academic institutions do has not abated. The exponential growth of scientific literature that physicist and scientometrics pioneer Derek John de Solla Price observed in his 1963 seminal work Little Science, Big Science persists. It tasks library resources and challenges librarians to be nimble and creative in their role as information mediators and disseminators. It requires careful collection activities and pursuit of solutions that address specific client needs and changing environments. This is so, because even in an age when scholars, faculty, and students can obtain information without actually visiting a physical library, Geoffrey T. Freeman’s observation remains as valid as ever: “The library is the only centralized location where new and emerging information technologies can be combined with traditional knowledge resources in a user-focused, service-rich environment that supports today’s social and educational patterns of learning, teaching, and research.” (“The Library as Place: Changes in Learning Patterns, Collections, Technology, and Use,” 2005).

Cheng Library has embraced the need to expand anytime-anywhere access to library resources and services in support of student retention and success. We work on incorporating information and research skills in the academic curricula and embedding library resources in online course management environments. We target increasing availability of e-books, e-collections, e-resources, and e-media to ensure that space and time have minimal impact on access to the information we provide to enhance the knowledge of our clientele. Assessment of our activities and solutions to know if what we are doing works well is a regular feature of our operations. We also assess so that we may discover areas that need improvement or refocused attention. Like any other contemporary academic library, we are also increasingly thrust into the role of digitizing and providing access to local and unique collections, and curating and publicizing the history and life of our institutions and the communities in which they are situated. We aspire to promote the scholarly productivity of our faculty and intellectual engagements of our students.

We made some strides toward accomplishing these goals and commitments at Cheng Library this academic year. We significantly increased our electronic book collection, expanded demand-driven acquisition and access-to-own profiles to improve subject coverage. Our reference team converted a significant part of the reference collection to electronic format and removed print duplicates to free up space for student use. Our library instruction team increased the number of instruction sessions offered online and departments receiving such instruction, and deployed new tutorials for PSS courses and legal research resources while continuing to update existing tutorials and research guides. Our open access administrative role has yielded some rewards as we continue to work with and collegially guide and assist faculty through the open access publishing process. The library is working with various University units on ideas and strategies to enhance and sustain collaborations and support campus-wide efforts.

Institutional repositories are not new, and their original promise to provide a viable alternative to the traditional scholarly communications system has not materialized to any significant degree. However, university-based institutional repositories remain a useful conduit for disseminating digital materials created by academic institutions and their communities. As Jonathan A. Nabe puts it, an institutional repository “allows for the enhanced visibility of the source institution and its members” (Starting, Strengthening, and Managing Institutional Repositories, 2010). Our digital initiatives team, led by our digital initiatives librarian, established and deployed William Paterson University’s first institutional repository, WPSphere, this academic year, to host and promote all things William Paterson, with a focus on university documents, faculty scholarship, student research, and items documenting the history and life of our broader community. For starters, we digitized and will be uploading WP yearbooks into the new institutional repository.  We continue to identify objects for digitization. We will work actively in the 2018/2019 year to have faculty scholarship and creative works uploaded, as well as student scholarship, and reach out to the university community to identify other items for inclusion in the repository. WPSphere is an open access repository available to anyone anywhere. By providing a single site for the output of the institution, the repository opens up opportunities for scholarship, outreach, recruitment, and more.

This summer will be a busy time at the library. There will be ongoing work throughout the summer months to install new carpeting and refresh all restrooms. It will be a mildly disruptive period, and we ask for your indulgence and understanding as we work on these enhancements to improve your experiences, and provide a welcoming environment upon your return for the fall semester. As members of the University community, our primary mission is to ensure student success. Students succeed when study and learning are optimized. It is our hope that the outcome of our efforts will promote effective study and active learning, two indispensable ingredients of student success. As Mary Ellen Spencer and Sarah Barbara Watstein note (“Academic Library Spaces: Advancing Student Success and Helping Students Thrive,” 2017): “Today’s academic research librarians understand and appreciate that spaces not only inspire creativity, reflection, exploration, and innovation but also impact learning.” We at Cheng Library know and appreciate this. It informs what we do. It is the inspiration behind the physical enhancements the library will be undergoing this summer.

May 14, 2018