Dressing up Falvey

Joe Lucia

I often find myself wondering how current Villanova students view libraries and the services they offer, having come to maturity in the age of Google, cell phones, instant messaging and personal electronic devices of all sorts. My fear is that libraries are most often seen by the majority of people under 25, as somewhat antiquated book warehouses that are cumbersome to navigate and can’t provide easily accessible, up-to-the-minute, relevant information at the point of need. But when I have the opportunity to talk with actual Villanova students about how Falvey Library has been of use to them during their time at the University, I am often pleasantly surprised.

For many students, first and foremost, the library serves as a place to study quietly alone or to meet and interact with learning groups of various types, some informal, some convened by faculty members in particular courses to handle a project together. Almost as frequently, I hear comments about how helpful our reference librarians have been in helping a student untangle a complicated research assignment. Such comments come especially from juniors or seniors who have had occasion to undertake investigation of a somewhat advanced topic in their major area.

Those comments are especially gratifying because academic libraries have, at the heart of their mission, the role of providing a context in which developing minds confront the complexity and depth of the intellectual record (regardless of format – in print or in digital manifestations). At a recent library staff retreat, in fact, we arrived at a phrase that effectively summarizes an important dimension of this function – our goal is to assist students in “transforming information into knowledge.”

Though our current physical facility, has many drawbacks based on what I hear from student users, the library continues to be a valuable “site of learning.” We do realize that the present building has many problems – it is outdated in the way it looks and feels, it is crowded and it fails to effectively accommodate many of the desires of current students. Though long-term, the university needs an expanded and extensively renovated facility to serve evolving student needs, there are steps that can be taken to improve significantly what we now have.

This coming summer, if the stars align properly and budget constraints don’t cramp our goals, we are hoping to make major changes to the the first floor. Those changes will include re-organizing the layout to increase informal lounge space, possibly bringing the Holy Grounds upstairs with expanded and more comfortable seating, providing more flexible access to computers for both group and individual use, creating more distinctive service “zones” and making the overall environment more visually attractive. Making these changes will require moving staff around and probably closing the current Reserve Room on the lower level. Because the Reserve Room serves as well as a quiet study area (a feature of the library we don’t want to lose), we will be putting together a working group of students and library staff this semester to review the layout of study areas on floors two through four to see how we can adjust those to better suit both quiet and group study needs as well.

The revitalized first floor will provide a more welcoming and flexible environment for students, and space for library events such as lectures, book talks, readings and discussion groups. Later this semester, as project details are finalized, we will be presenting more information on what we’re proposing. If you are interested in providing some direct feedback, feel free to contact me at [email protected].