SLC's Zigmunt Library changing with the times

Posted On January 22, 2015


Natalie Long isn’t your “shushing” kind of librarian.

Long, the Director of Library Services at Silver Lake College, occasionally stirs up a little boisterous activity like a recent “Jeopardy”-style trivia contest about the U.S. Constitution.

“The students’ competitive sides really came out. It was very lively and animated,” Long said of one of the library’s numerous activities.

The Erma M. and Theodore M. Zigmunt Library is still a quiet place to study and do research, but with the growth in availability of portable devices that allow access to information at everyone’s fingertips, the role of the campus library is changing, she said.

“The library is moving from primarily housing resources to more of an educational and support role,” Long said.

“Students today need help differentiating between what is a reliable source of information and something that is biased or misleading,” she said. “Sources like Wikipedia are good places to start and explore, but students need peer-reviewed sources for good scholarship.”

And as more and more materials are published only digitally, Long finds herself negotiating database licensing agreements in addition to her traditional role of maintaining the physical collection, she said.

Long has plans to make more information available online, thanks to a newly acquired content management system called LibGuides, which provides a web page template allowing library staff to create subject-specific pages with links to articles, videos and other web sites. These will be especially useful for off-campus students who live a distance from the college, Long said.

The templates also can be used to create tutorials for faculty, staff and student workers, she said.

“User experience” is the big buzzword in college libraries today, she said.

“Instead of libraries dictating, ‘This is what we have, this is what you should use,’ students determine, to some extent, what we offer, how we offer it and how we arrange the space,” she said. “Libraries on college campuses are becoming increasingly more flexible and collaborative.”

She wants Zigmunt Library to be a friendly and inviting place.

“We encourage conversation, collaboration and group work or just relaxing between classes and meeting friends,” Long said. “We want classes to come to the library. I am also very pro coffee. I want everyone to feel they can bring their Starbucks in. They can even bring snacks to eat their lunch in here if they want.”

One change that will occur over the summer is moving the Student Success Center from the building’s lower level to the library mezzanine. To make room, some of the back issues of print periodicals currently housed there will be moved to storage, Long said.

“That’s going to be wonderful for the students. They’ll be able to come to the library for tutoring and research. The library will be the center of academic support,” she said.

“Libraries are very interested in educating the whole person. We’re partners in education,” said Long, a 2008 Silver Lake College graduate who received her Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2012. She became SLC's Director of Library Services in August.

Long’s duties include overseeing the college’s third-floor curriculum library, where educators have access to resources to help them prepare their lesson plans. This area will be receiving a donation of literacy materials from Mary Domes, educator and wife of college president Dr. Chris Domes.

“We also play a big part in experiential learning with our work-study students," Long said. “We have 12 students working in the library. Our goal is to model for them to be trustworthy, reliable employees and also to give them the reigns a little bit so they can have supervisory experience that builds confidence and lets students exercise some of their creativity.”

Recent library programs have included late-night cram sessions before mid-terms and final exams, Poetry Night in conjunction with the English Department, a banned books event and a theatrical performance.

The library houses 62,195 print items, 160 periodical titles, eight newspapers and 13,282 audio-visual items including CDs, DVDs and records. It also has 11 computers for student use and two laptops available for checkout, Long said.

Its collection includes many items that students can’t find online.

There are hymnals, a quirky postcard collection, a Kodaly song index, specialized reference books, pamphlets and various volumes in its locked and temperature-controlled rare book room.

The oldest is a book of sermons published in 1495 by a Franciscan monk. The smallest book is a 2-inch square 1835 copy of the New Testament. The room also houses a first edition, three-volume set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Library hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays; noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays. Online resources are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.