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Don’t Say ‘Shush’

Like its counterparts everywhere, IUP’s libraries system is evolving, and its new dean aspires to see its sites become places of contemplation and collaboration.

Dean Luis Gonzalez

“Libraries are where people come to collaborate.” —Dean Luis Gonzalez

If he could, Luis Gonzalez would acquire more space for Stapleton and Stabley libraries, the connected main structure of the IUP Libraries system. But, space isn’t his only concern. Expanding services is key to meeting the needs of students, faculty members, and the Indiana community.

“Libraries are changing,” Gonzalez said, referring to the standard impression of dusty repositories that house books and periodicals for borrowing. “Libraries aren’t that anymore. They are places where people come to collaborate. They’re no longer just places where people are shushed to keep noise low because other people are studying. Actually, they’re both. We need space for people to collaborate, and we need space for people to contemplate.”

He used the addition of a coffee shop in recent years as evidence of how libraries are changing.

“Ten or fifteen years ago, would you have seen people eating and drinking in a library? Never!” he said. “I would have chased those people out. But, that’s not how today’s students work. They need a place where they can bring their stuff and complete all their work—whether they are doing their homework or studying for finals. We want to make it as welcoming and as comfortable as possible.”

Gonzalez, who joined IUP as the dean of IUP Libraries last fall, feels that the operation he inherited, which includes the music library in Cogswell Hall and the libraries at the regional campuses, is in good shape. He does, however, see room for needed change. He came to IUP from Hunter College, which is part of the City University of New York, and, before that, New York University’s library system. Reconfiguration and aiming higher in certain areas are on his mind, and those things require funding.

Readers interested in assisting IUP Libraries are urged to contact Emily Davis Smeltz ’01, M’02 at 724-357-5555 or to visit the Support IUP website.

“Technology is becoming more and more visual,” he said. “Assignments are becoming less about writing papers and more about making presentations.”

He envisions Stapleton Library’s first floor as an information commons, a service center where students and faculty members can access all the tools and assistance they need to learn, to produce, and to practice their scholarship. He would like to see his operation become a satellite location for other university operations that provide academic support services, so that students may access them during the evening and in the same location where they are working on class projects, writing papers, and completing assignments. He would like to entertain more services for faculty members, particularly those who develop online class offerings.

Student studying at IUP library

A student studying at one of IUP's libraries.

“And, I see a need for more classroom space,” he said, noting that the space in question would accommodate additional formal instruction by library faculty members.

Gonzalez noted that development of online classes presents a different set of challenges for faculty members. Best practice requires that each online class website have a custom library presence for students who cannot come through Stapleton Library’s doors because they are located far from campus.

This need has been accelerated by the explosion of information technology. The Stapleton and Stabley complex currently has five classrooms, but Gonzalez believes two more are in order—each equipped with workstations and interactive white boards.

The commons and more classrooms would allow for self-instruction, individual instruction, and traditional classroom instruction—all of which Gonzalez believes are necessary.

“We need to train people on how to manage the explosion of information—how to define the need and to find the most appropriate information for the search,” he said. “Students need to know how to discern good information from bad information. The Millennial Generation is technology literate, but its members are not information literate.”