Cheng Library: A New Academic Year, a Refreshed Look, an Old Mission

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

Dean of Cheng Library, Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah

Welcome to our new students, faculty and staff, and welcome back to our returning students. Your library and intellectual hub welcomes you to another academic year with a refreshed interior and a familiar and enduring commitment to supporting your academic success, as well as facilitating your intellectual growth and dedication to lifelong learning.

While you were away, the entire library received new carpeting and all the restrooms in the building were renovated to provide a new, more attractive, and comfortable environment for you to work and study in. Our active weeding of the collection to ensure currency and relevance led to the elimination of some shelving and rearrangement of library spaces to better support your peer interactions, individual and group work, study, and socialization. We hope you will appreciate the enhancements, visit more often, and stay longer.

By providing you with better spaces, we acknowledge the importance of your library as a place that supports your extensive study and research, with an environment that is conducive to your preparation for success in the classroom and beyond. As W. Lee Hisle (Top Issues Facing Academic Libraries: A Report of the Focus on the Future Task Force”) put it: “Librarians are dedicated to maintaining the importance and relevance of the academic library as a place of intellectual stimulation and a center of activity on campus.” Librarians are also aware, as Christian Jacob (“Gathering Memory: Thoughts on the History of Libraries”) reminds us, that a library is “a space through which a great number of travelers may pass along their own specific routes, some keeping to the well-marked roads while others strike out cross-country. It is at once a well-signposted social space reflecting and developing a group identity and a territory for individual adventures driven by curiosity, intellectual vocation, the constraints of formal learning or the routine of scholarly work.”

We have a deep appreciation for this dual reality; we recognize the resource and service needs of our clients as well as the diversity of those needs. We are dedicated to the continuous improvement of our spaces, resources, and services, and to making adjustments to best respond to those needs. We continue to work on mapping and reviewing the information and knowledge we enable access to. As the combination of inflationary pressures and funding challenges converge to dictate the necessity of being nimble in an environment where explosive information growth meets the dwindling real value of available dollars, our selectivity and particular attention to clear curricular and research demands of our clients becomes even more critical. We are pursuing acquisition solutions that give our users a greater voice in the content selection process. This will allow for an approach in which your specific information needs and the expertise of your librarians converge to build a collection most satisfactory to William Paterson stakeholders. We look forward to your active input and participation.

As the semester progresses, we hope to see increased activity in the library. We are excited about having more students avail themselves of the opportunities offered by their library, and encourage more faculty members to incorporate the library’s educational offerings into their classroom activities. We implore them to collaborate with their instructional librarian colleagues to improve the information literacy of their students. The importance of developing such skills cannot be overstated and the role of libraries in supporting that effort and their importance to success in the area is well documented. As Heidi Julien, Melissa Gross, and Don Latham (“Survey of Information Literacy Instructional Practices in U.S. Academic Libraries”) observed, “information literacy instruction is a fundamental professional practice in academic libraries, and academic librarians are primary providers of information literacy instruction generally.”

Librarians have played a key role in emphasizing the importance of information literacy within American higher education. Almost two decades ago, the Association of College and Research Libraries provided a seminal definition of the concept that highlighted its information identification, discovery, and use aspects. More recently, the association reframed information literacy as “the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning” (Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education). It encouraged librarians and classroom faculty to work together in the interest of graduating information literate students. Our instructional librarians are well trained and equipped to help, and they look forward to collaborations with their classroom counterparts toward this end.

Cheng Library also looks forward to collaborating with classroom faculty in the exploration and review of potential open educational resources that might be adopted for various courses to reduce the financial burden the cost of textbooks imposes upon many of our students. As Joseph. A. Salem (“Open Pathways to Student Success: Academic Library Partnerships for Open Educational Resource and Affordable Course Content Creation and Adoption”) noted: “The access to and affordability of higher education in the United States is an increasingly prominent and important issue. Among the factors currently receiving much attention is the cost of and access to required course material. As textbook and traditional course material prices have continued to steadily and dramatically climb, the lack of equitable access to them has become a barrier to student success, particularly among first-year and first-generation students. Increasing the adoption of OER and more affordable options is one strategy that many institutions are implementing with libraries leading or partnering to lead.”

There is statistical evidence that even as textbook costs rise, student expenditures on textbooks have steadily declined, leading to the conclusion that many students have made the decision not to spend their scarce financial resources on course materials. Michael Troy Martin et al. (“Analysis of Student and Faculty Perceptions of Textbook Costs in Higher Education”) also found that students often made decisions on which courses to take “based on the specific cost of textbooks,” and that 66% of their survey respondents claimed they had not bought a textbook due to cost even as 47% communicated that the decision to not buy a textbook negatively affected their grade in the class. Cheng Library hopes to work closely with WPUNJ faculty in efforts to ease this documented impediment to student success.  We look forward to engaging faculty in discussions on the viability of open educational resource solutions at WPUNJ, to providing support to our classroom colleagues in the identification, evaluation, and selection of resources for specific courses. 

So welcome back, and let us continue the work to improve our environments, resources and services in support of student satisfaction and success, and deepen the collaborations that enable us to do so successfully.


October 03, 2018