The role of the college librarian in the digital era is even more important today than in the library a generation ago when all the source material could be found on a library's shelf
New Rochelle, New York (PRWEB) October 15, 2009
Continuing its leadership in educational technology, Iona College will dedicate on Saturday, October 17, its re-designed and expanded Ryan Library, one of the most advanced college libraries in the nation and one that is worthy of a nationally ranked private college. The $14 million project-- which was fully paid for by funds contributed by private donors and grants from the Kresge Foundation and the Booth Ferris Foundation--represents a sweeping renovation of the college's 60-year main library and has established a new center of ideas, information and culture on the campus.
It is the latest piece of a master plan that Iona College has been implementing since 1995 to strengthen the quality of its infrastructure and programs. A successful capital campaign of $100 million resulted in new residence halls, a student center, an athletics center and the new library that was officially showcased today for college officials, supporters, community leaders, alumni and others as part of Iona College's Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Brother James A. Liguori, CFC, Iona College President, said: "We are not only celebrating an important milestone in the history of our college but the individuals who made it possible for Ryan Library to remain the absolute quintessential center of academic life at Iona College for years to come. Thanks to those who gave generously and to the expertise, vision and commitment of the project team members, the new Ryan Library more than fulfills the Vision of Excellence capital campaign we announced for this library three years ago." He added: "They are leaving an enduring legacy for the pursuit of academic excellence at Iona College."
Among those attending the October 17th dedication ceremony will be some of the largest donors to the campaign to raise funds for the library project including Alice Marie and Thomas E. Hales ('58) of Briarcliff Manor, Retired Chairman and CEO, Union State Bank; Patrick J. Lynch ('59) of Sea Girt, NJ and Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Retired Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Texaco and Mary Catherine and Raymond J. Reisert, Jr. ('63) of Kitty Hawk, NC, Retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PW Funding, Inc.
The 63,800 square-foot, three-story Ryan Library is about 15,800 square feet larger than the previous library and is equipped with technologically advanced facilities and an inviting design to better serve 4,300 students and alumni. It is the result of four years of intensive research and input from hundreds of students and faculty.
Since opening at the start of the fall semester, the Ryan Library has received rave reviews from students who have made it their preferred destination to study. "We are personally excited to see the students use the library in a way that we envisioned it to be," said Joanne Steele ('87), Iona College's Vice Provost who spearheaded the library's revamping.
The reconfiguration is a marriage of library science and technology that offers students both individual quiet study and group work/study areas. It boasts 104-dual-boot iMac workstations, networked printers and scanners, a knowledgeable staff of reference librarians and technical support available seven days a week and access to more than 80 electronic research data bases comprising more 15,000 journal and newspaper titles, a print collection comprising about 250,000 books and 700 hard-copy journals and newspapers and a café offering refreshments to help break up long study hours.
In addition, the interior is inviting with well-lit, large open spaces. One of the design considerations was to make the library a visually prominent structure seen by visitors and pedestrians approaching the main campus entrance on North Avenue. Brother Liguori recommended to architect Anthony Pucillo of New Rochelle, that this be accomplished by changing the location of the library's new entrance to face North Street which runs parallel to the campus perimeter.
Previously, a cluster of aging storefronts were in front of the library on North Avenue but these were eventually demolished, providing an opportunity to showcase the library's attractive new library design which retains the original Georgian style. "When I submitted a sketch showing how the library would look when designed to face North Avenue, Brother Liguori said, 'let's go,'" recalls Pucillo who has designed all of the recent new buildings at Iona. "That is the first and only time in my more than 40-year career that a client ever approved a concept on the basis of a single concept drawing."
The attractiveness of the front entrance was also enhanced with the addition of a small landscaped park with a lawn, shrubs, trees and benches for relaxing.
The process of creating a 21st century library began in 2001 when Iona was one among the first colleges in the nation to install a completely wireless network and, in 2007, it introduced 55 dual iMacs running Windows and MAC OS with Internet access to electronic resources and journals in all major academic disciplines.
A Carnegie Mellon grant that the college received four years ago allowed Ms. Steele and Rick Palladino ('76), the College's Director of Libraries, to tour colleges and libraries across the Northeast and at Emory University in Georgia to learn and see first-hand what other leading colleges were doing to develop new approaches to delivering library services. "We spoke with hundreds of students at Iona to solicit their attitudes toward the library and how this age-old institution could be user-friendly and relevant for them," said Ms. Steele.
In addition, the library and information technology staffs were integrated as a team that worked together to move the Ryan Library into the digital era. As a result of that integration, the library's staff not only helps students navigate through the data bases when they are doing research but also answers technical questions. In addition, the staff conducts ongoing training of faculty members in the use of the technology.
Open seven days a week with extended evening hours, Ryan Library boasts an extensive team of nine full-time and five part-time librarians and twelve full-time and seven part-time support people.
"The role of the college librarian in the digital era is even more important today than in the library a generation ago when all the source material could be found on a library's shelf," said Palladino. He added: "With so much information on the Internet, the college librarians are the research search engines who can guide the students in locating and validating the source material for their research projects."
The enthusiastic response to the new library has been measured by a significant spike in its usage since the new semester began. In the past the Ryan Library averaged between 750-1000 visitors during a typical weekday. That has risen to more than 1,200 which Palladino expects to increase as the semester progresses.
Taking advantage of the college's wireless network, students can also access 24/7 the library's data bases from their residences or anywhere else on the campus. In addition, the college's website, http://www.iona.edu, provides links to the databases for students wishing to research remotely.
However, in spite of the technological advances that are the hallmark of Iona College's new library, a time traveler who researched at the Ancient Library of Alexandria several millennia ago would be very comfortable at the Ryan Library by being able to select a book from the vast print collection and finding a quiet corner to turn the pages and learn.
Founded in 1940 by the Congregation of Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, Iona College is a private, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of American Catholic higher education. Iona-- currently listed in the top tier of US News and World Report's annual "America's Best Colleges 2010; The Princeton Review's Best Northeastern Colleges 2010 edition and Business Week's Top 25 Undergraduate Business Schools in the Northeast--offers undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and master of business administration degrees and numerous post-graduate certificate programs.