Library Changes Will Include Moving Learning Lab
Perhaps you are familiar with this old library cliché: bored people sit uninterested while a dour librarian shushes the faintest whisper. This librarian usually has a pencil holding together a bun in her hair and wears thick glasses attached to a beaded chain. This image may work for cartoons, but library supervisor Joyce Hommel wants to shatter this stereotype and create a new image for librarians and the libraries they look after. Hommel is Eshleman Library’s new supervisor and she has a new vision for Henry Ford College.
When she began working at the college, she reports that there were signs all throughout the library. Signs that said things like: No Talking, No Food, No Drink. No This, No That. She explains that such a style of enforcing rules created a negative environment. “The first thing I did was take down all the ‘no’ signs,” says Hommel. She estimates that there were about 152 of them. Today, a couple paintings hang in places that were once occupied by the signs. The strict, stiff environment we’ve come to associate with the library may be a thing of the past. “We wanted to rethink what was essential for learning,” Hommel states.
To discover what a librarian actually does, I spoke to Dan Harrison, one of the college’s two reference librarians. He has been working at the college for thirty years and he has watched the gradual evolution of the library. But the role of a good librarian remains consistent. “An academic librarian can show you how to produce the answers,” Harrison says. What he means by this is that a librarian shouldn’t simply be a tool for helping you find a book. Instead, librarians should be able to teach students how to do solid research that will help them find answers by themselves. And not simply answers — but the right ones. This involves being able to source information correctly. He explains, in market terms, that “being able to prove that you have the best information gives you an edge.” While Google may be adept at returning our searches with many answers quickly, a library, combined with a good librarian, can produce quality answers.
Harrison and Hommel agree that there are a multitude of ways in which a student can learn. Some need absolute silence. Others may work better in a group. The goal is to create an environment that can accommodate all styles of learning.
Changes have been happening all over campus and Eshleman Library will be undergoing some of its own. File cabinets that were once used for paper indexing have been removed to open up space. Magazines, like Reader’s Digest and National Geographic, which were previously archived in hard copy are now available digitally and the library can make more space by recycling these collections.
Hommel also plans to make the library a more comfortable place to study since, currently, all chairs in the library are hard surfaces. There is only one “soft space,” as Hommel calls it: a sofa-type thing that sits on the second floor of the library. Sorry to those who would have preferred this spot be kept a secret. Hommel plans to bring in more, though. Further illustrating the thought she has put into future furniture, she reflects on her own studying habits, “When I study, I wanna curl up on a couch with my laptop and my book.”
Next to the library is the Learning Success Center (Building A). The attached, but inexplicably unconnected building houses both the Learning Lab and Early College classrooms on its second floor. Early College is, and has been, growing and will eventually overtake the current Learning Lab space. As a result, the Learning Lab will move into the library in the next year.
Hommel also throws around the possibility of opening a café in the library and though the logistics of preparing food inside the library may be difficult, it is not impossible. Plenty of work has been put into the Eshleman to keep up with the times and much work is still left to do. But the library staff are constantly in the process of brainstorming. Hommel states, “We really want to hear from the students. What they want. And ways we can make that happen.”