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Envisioning the East Campus Library: Faculty Perspective
by Ralph Alberico

Dean Ralph Alberico
Ralph Alberico

Work continues on the new East Campus Library building (ECL) scheduled to be open for business at the beginning of the Fall Semester 2008.  In the last issue of Knowledge Edge we provided a scenario of types of experiences a student would have in the new library. This article focuses on the services and spaces in the building that will be devoted exclusively to faculty.


Most of the fifth floor is set aside for faculty support and professional development activities.  Space on that floor will be shared by Libraries & Educational Technologies and our partners in the Center for Faculty Innovation (CFI).  For faculty and students alike, the emphasis is on collaboration, knowledge discovery and exchange of ideas.  This article presents a scenario based on the ways in which a typical faculty member might experience the new building. 


East Campus Library ExteriorProfessor Paul Dubrock is a professor in the Communication, Sciences and Disorders (CSD) department whose teaching and research interests are in the area of neuroscience.   Dr. Dubrock likes to challenge his students.  He is dedicated to his teaching and research, and works closely with his students, sharing his time and expertise freely and engaging them in serious research. 


Dr. Dubrock was pleasantly surprised with his students’ familiarity in finding, evaluating, and using published information.   After a while he concluded that most of his students had acquired basic information literacy skills before they arrived in his advanced classes.  Not having to teach students the basics of using a modern library and information system enabled him to concentrate on working with the CSD liaison librarian to ensure that his students understood the core resources of his discipline.  Even though his office in the Health and Human Services Building and his liaison librarian’s office is in Carrier Library, they communicate frequently.  Much of the communication is electronic but they also arrange to meet in the new ECL library where they discuss library services, collections and instructional programs. 


When he wants his students to learn more about research databases, search techniques and research support software offered by the library Dr. Dubrock brings them to hands-on instruction sessions offered in the library.  He also suggests that his students go to the Learning Commons for one-on-one consultations.  He often refers his students to the excellent research guides prepared by his liaison librarian,  in which core sources in his interdisciplinary field have been evaluated and pulled together in an easy-to-use guide on the web.


Because Dr. Dubrock’s area of expertise is interdisciplinary he frequently needs to consult sources from medicine, psychology, biology, computer science, linguistics and philosophy.  He at first found it disconcerting to find that all of the books, journals and media sources of interest to him were not gathered together in the library nearest to his office--books with call numbers beginning with Q,R,S,T are in ECL and other call numbers are found in the Carrier Library.  However, he soon relied on using LEO, the library’s online catalog, from his home or office and requesting that items of interest be delivered to his departmental office.  Turnaround time for deliveries was quick and he found that articles from most of the journals that interested him were available online. 


East Campus Library Exterior ViewHe was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the library offered many online videos that he and students could view from their offices, homes, classrooms, and dorms.  The library could also provide secure access for only his students to e-reserves including texts, images, video and diagnostic tests.  And when he needed something that the library didn’t own, he found the Interlibrary Loan service to be easy-to-use, quick and responsive.  He always encouraged his students to take advantage of the delivery service and Interlibrary Loan, especially the grad students in his research group.


Dr. Dubrock’s position at JMU was his first faculty position.  When he was in graduate school, he did not have any formal training in teaching, so he was quick to take advantage of programs and services offered by the Center for Faculty Innovation on the fifth floor of ECL, especially those that supported his teaching.  He particularly liked working in the laboratory classroom where class sessions were recorded so experienced master teachers on the faculty could review his performance with him and provide tips on teaching techniques.  He could try new techniques, experiment with integrating new technologies with his teaching, and reconfigure the learning environment  to see which approaches worked best. 


In addition to getting tips on teaching Dr. Dubrock took advantage of other opportunities offered in the building.  He became a regular attendee at workshops and professional development events sponsored by the Center for Instructional Technology (CIT), the CFI, and the Library.  Through those activities he gained a deeper understanding of topics ranging from effective library assignments to teaching large classes to integrating technology with his instruction.  Eventually Dr. Dubrock was awarded re-assigned time as a CFI Faculty Associate and provided with support that helped him embed research and problem solving in his instruction.  He was able to meet colleagues from other departments, to serve as a mentor, and to share his insights about problem-based science teaching.


ECL’s fifth floor provides the opportunities to interact with colleagues in the comfortable, neutral spaces for faculty.  Dr. Dubrock could spend time between classes in the CFI/CIT Faculty Resource Room browsing the latest professional development materials and chatting with his colleagues.  Sometimes he would reserve one of the mediated study rooms to review the literature and brainstorm with his research group.  The large monitors, computers and whiteboards helped to focus the sessions and organize the freewheeling discussion. 


On other occasions Dr. Dubrock attended seminars, colloquia, and presentations by guest speakers in the beautifully appointed seminar room.  Views of the Bluestone campus and the mountains beyond from the balcony in that room added to the quality of the experience.  Occasionally he would attend an online session; the high quality video was the next best thing to being in the same room with the presenter.  Small meeting rooms adjacent to the seminar room added flexibility to the types of meetings and programs that could be offered there. 


Staff in the Center for Instructional Technology, also on the fifth floor of the new library building, provided Dr. Dubrock with personal assistance in developing instructional materials for his students.  A workshop sponsored by CIT image experts helped Dr. Dubrock put a series of images of brain scans into webcasts and online presentations that he creates for students at other schools in Virginia through his role as a faculty member in a jointly sponsored, largely online, graduate program.  He is able to record his presentations in the video studio on the fifth floor; the video allows students to experience acts of speech and observe brain images at the same time.  The juxtaposition of image and sound really helps students understand the relationship of cognitive processes to speech.


Participating in a largely online program with a good mix of schools has been an eye-opener for Paul.  In ECL Dr. Dubrock learned about video-conferencing and web casting.  Working with students and colleagues from other institutions also presented challenges and rewards.  The professor quickly realized that making courses work online took more than a basic understanding of a few online tools, Blackboard and the ability to get his presentations on the web.  In workshops offered in training facilities in the ECL he learned to work with blogs, wikis, course management tools, and online collaboration tools.  The possibilities were endless, exciting and confusing. Educational technologists, faculty mentors and librarians helped Paul put the pieces together.



In a typical week, our hypothetical faculty member will visit the East Campus Library several times--having a cup of coffee in the café,  hanging out in the Faculty Resource Room, facilitating a workshop in the CFI, working with video in the CIT, picking up a book, brainstorming with the librarians and instructional technologists, meeting with his student research team, reading and reflecting--we hope that the architecture, the technology, the services and, most of all, the people, our dedicated crew from Libraries & Educational Technologies and our partners in the Center for Faculty Innovation, will make the building looming on the eastern edge of the campus a preferred destination for real JMU faculty members.  Our vision for ECL is a place where students and faculty alike can interact with one another, discover and exchange ideas and become better learners, teachers and researchers. 

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