Seya Samararatne, H.I.T. Squad student, and Mike Serafin, Library Systems Analyst
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From the Chief Librarian

"The space overlooks an adjacent row of trees, making it seem like one is in the forest canopy, adding a whole new meaning to ‘branching out!’

Needless to say, the Instruction Centre study space has been an immediate hit with our students," says Chief Librarian Mary Ann Mavrinac."

Library branches out –
in more ways than one

CAO Paul Donoghue asked the UTM Library to oversee new study space on the second floor of the new Instruction Centre. Modelled after the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre (HMALC), the Instruction Centre study space adds approximately 150 spaces to this campus, including nine group study rooms (bookable online), 20 Dell and 10 Mac computers using the same software suite available in the HMALC, and several table and carrel spaces. Photocopying and printing facilities are available, as is assistance from the H.I.T. Squad (Help with Information Technology) and Library security.

“The Library does an outstanding job of supporting students in the Library Learning Commons and the Library study space. I am thrilled that they were willing to extend their success to the new IC study space,” says Donoghue.

The new study space opens at 6:00 a.m. Monday to Friday in response to student feedback that earlier opening hours for the Library Learning Commons would be desirable. On the weekends, it mirrors the hours of the HMALC. The entire study space is zoned as “Quiet Conversation,” and students have already decided that, indeed, this is a quiet space.

Innovation and renovation make the grade

No excuses for not studying. Thanks to improved efficiency, comfort and convenience, study rooms at the UTM Library are becoming much more conducive to boning up for exams and doing other school work.

Student Brandon Jimenez

It started with some innovations that Information and Loans Technician Lisa Hodgson had come up with based on the activity and transactions at the Information and Loans desk.

“This coincided with some research and reconnaissance that the senior leaders had been doing with respect to collaborative spaces at other institutions,  “says Luke Barber, Senior Systems Analyst for the Library. "We merged the requirements into the already running project, and proceeded to research interesting trends and products, as well as student interest.”

A student survey was conducted that yielded more than 220 responses from study-room users. The results led to some significant proposals for improvement, including the introduction of whiteboard paint as a pilot on level one, and moist-wipes for cleaning the walls; added power as a pilot in two rooms on level three; sound remediation (proofing) between two study rooms on level three; and portable pocket projectors to be added to the laptop loan program for practising presentations.

The student survey also revealed a concern regarding room booking policy. Says Barber: “Though there was no clear consensus as to how exactly the policies should be changed, the sentiment was that the students would use the study rooms more if they were able to book them when they wanted them. A component of this is likely due to the popularity of the service as well; however, better control over room booking in peak times, as well as clearer lines of communication to the students regarding the service, is the recommendation that we see as addressing this.”

Ever-growing grad population gets attention it deserves
During the period from April 1, 2010 through April 30, 2011, a needs assessment of graduate student Library services and spaces was conducted by Mindy Thuna, Science Liaison Librarian, using a mixed methods approach to collect both qualitative and quantitative data.

Mindy Thuna,
Science Liaison Librarian

“The purpose of the needs assessment was to identify areas for which the Library could further improve its outreach and support to UTM’s growing population of graduate students,”  says Thuna.

A wide range of different areas relating to Library services and spaces for graduate students was examined and several recommendations were made. Following is a brief summary of the six recommendations for enhancing services and/or spaces for graduate students. Based on the findings of the Needs Assessment, it was recommended that:
1. A librarian be designated as the graduate student services librarian.
2. Focus groups for graduate students continue to be conducted on a two-year cycle.
3. A separate graduate student micro website be created with sections/information geared towards the specific needs of graduate students.
4. A pilot project in two departments, one professional and one research stream, be undertaken to re-envision the mechanism for offering services to graduate students, with a shift to a more personalized service.
5. More effort be placed on creating a community of scholarly practice for graduate students at the UTM campus.
6. Discussions continue on the type of graduate space the UTM Library will provide.

One significant outcome from the Needs Assessment is the dedication of a Group Study Room for the exclusive use of graduate students. Located on Level 1 of the Library (Group Study Room 3), the new Graduate Student Study Room can accommodate eight people for a period up to four hours per booking and is equipped with a 46-inch LCD screen ready to connect to a student’s laptop.

Sustainable support in an increasingly online environment

During the summer of 2011, the Library expanded its virtual-services capability. Building quality high-impact virtual resources and services is a key strategy for enhanced interactions with and sustainable support to students and faculty in an increasingly online environment. It realizes the Library’s vision of creating highly effective innovative services.

“Virtual services extend our assistance to both those who are not physically at the Library’s service points and to those who access our services beyond regular operating hours,” says Joanna Szurmak, Science Liaison Librarian. “We are focusing our virtual assistance on real-time chat and just-in-time online help videos."

Ian Whyte, Associate Librarian, Teaching and Learning,
and Joanna Szurmak, Science Liaison Librarian, believe in sustainable,
innovative virtual resources and services to support student engagement.

Virtual chat allows a user to contact Library staff in real-time using a chat widget embedded into every page of the Library website. The in-house chat service operates between 12 noon and 7 p.m. Moving in the past year to a new platform with tools developed specifically for libraries has improved the service significantly. Using a chat system is instrumental in managing and referring student and faculty questions to librarians and other specialists who can then provide expert assistance.

Instructional videos support in-depth research assistance and enable immediate response to frequently asked questions. “Recognizing that we needed an agile approach to respond to changes in the dynamic online environment, we leveraged our knowledge of emerging technologies to develop a disposable approach to video creation. Our innovative just-in-time approach streamlines our production, allowing us to invest time into content, not process,” explains Szurmak.

Building quality sustainable virtual resources and services to support student engagement is part of the Library’s long-term teaching and learning strategy.

"This strategy is a ‘critical success factor’ for reaching out and engaging effectively with our community," says Ian Whyte, Associate Librarian, Teaching and Learning, "and developing skills and resources for virtual service is essential for our building capacity for the future."


YouTube and Twitter are going strong, but Facebook is less popular than expected, according to the findings of a UTM Library study done by UWO Co-op student
Adam Craig.

Winning the OCULA New Librarian Residency Award
enabled the UTM Library to create the position of
Social Media Librarian assumed by Eva Stepanian.

More than any other social media avenue, YouTube has been very successful as a source of information for students, leading to a recommendation that the Library boost video production. The study also found that UTM students and faculty alike favour a short, casual, friendly approach in messages and video.

In the final analysis, the study indicated clear gaps in the Library’s communication strategies and the need to create a social media position. New social media and communication strategies that take full advantage of and improve on existing and new forms of electronic interaction are recommended.

That’s why the 2011 Ontario College and University Libraries Association New Librarian Residency Award won by the UTM Library for its impressive proposal couldn’t have come at a better time! The award enabled the creation of the position of Social Media Librarian, which 2011 U of T Faculty of Information graduate Eva Stepanian was pleased to accept. She assumed the position last fall.

“Having been chosen as a resident librarian has propelled me into the field of academic librarianship at an exhilarating rate,” says Stepanian. “Not only am I given the opportunity to learn from remarkable professional librarians on a daily basis, but I am also given the chance to discover new ways to reconnect users to their Library through organic and useful social media interactions.”

Chief Librarian Mary Ann Mavrinac says there’s a need to engage students and faculty using multiple social networking channels and she is very excited to have Stepanian on staff.

The OCULA Librarian Residency provides the opportunity for Stepanian to sit on the OCULA Council as an ex-officio member for 2011-12.

A convenient, efficient alternative to laptops
What would you do if you had a million dollars? At an all-staff retreat in 2009, the best idea for the “If-I-Had a-Million-Dollars” challenge was to expand the laptop loan program to make it more accessible for all students, and rethink how the program is outfitted to provide students with a closer approximation of their own personal connectivity devices. The result? Netbooks to Go.

“We hoped that we could introduce students to the idea that there are lighter, cheaper computers on the market that are just as good for most school work,” says Rochelle Mazar, Emerging Technologies Librarian.

Added Luke Barber, Senior Systems Analyst: “As such, we went with netbooks instead of laptops, which could be signed out without a bag, power adapter or mouse. This way they are more ‘on-the-go’ in that we sign them out with one quick swipe, and the student can just start using them. They’re also signed out for longer – five hours – and allowed to be taken out of the Library. We added MSN Live Messenger and Skype so that students would be able to connect and collaborate with their colleagues.

A student survey preceded the deployment of Netbooks to Go. The survey showed that 60 per cent of students were somewhat (or more) enthusiastic about the idea. The vast majority of respondents reported they spend their time on the Library’s laptops doing things that a netbook could accommodate.

“By and large, they’ve been a huge hit, as I see them everywhere on campus,” says Barber. “We’ve had 28,692 loan transactions in our Netbooks to Go program, an increase of almost 4,000 transactions (thus far) over the previous year.”