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Student services enhance College Library

February 28, 2012

With its long-established reputation as the place to see and be seen on the UW–Madison campus, College Library likes to play on its strengths as a social library.

Photo: Student Services Area

Students at work in the Student Services Area at the College Library.

The library recently began offering space to a number of campus academic services to help them connect their resources and expertise with the undergraduate population in the building.

These partnerships resulted in a Student Services Area that now serves as a focal point for student learning including, tutoring, advising, writing instruction, career assistance, and more.

The library’s first floor was redesigned in 2009 to consolidate service desks, improve efficiency, and create the designated Student Services Area – three connecting glass-paneled cubicles that may be reserved by the library’s campus partners.

These partners include the Greater University Tutoring Service (GUTS), the Writing Center, Letters & Science Career Services, Cross-College Advising Service (CCAS), the Center for the First-Year Experience, the Morgridge Center for Public Service, and the Division of Information Technology (DoIT).

According to Steve Frye, reference coordinator and manager of the space, it not only increases the visibility of campus services, but also enhances College Library’s reputation for implementing new ideas and cutting-edge services.

While modeled on the concept of the information or learning commons, an increasingly popular feature at a number of peer institutions, College Library’s iteration is unique in its emphasis on providing flexible satellite locations for student services that fit the culture of UW–Madison.

 “As a hub of studying and socializing for students on campus, College Library offers us the chance to reach students we’d otherwise never connect with,” says Brian Williams, an instructor at the Writing Center.

Williams says the location allows students to approach the Writing Center on their own turf. 

In addition to its high-traffic location, Aaron Spooner, director of GUTS, acknowledges another benefit: “College Library keeps hours that match the hours when students study and we can provide more tutors, on more days of the week for longer hours, than we would be able to offer in only the GUTS office.”

Because the library is open 24 hours a day, five days a week, staff from other campus departments can break down barriers imposed by traditional office hours.

The Cross-College Advising Service established a satellite location at College Library to provide counseling services during evening hours directly as a result of funding provided by the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates.

Advisors are available from 5-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday during the academic year (with additional services during registration) as CCAS strives to become more accessible to the population of advisees who may be living off campus.  According to Becky Ryan, CCAS associate director, anecdotal information has confirmed that students in College Library have been “happy to ‘find’ us there.”

Marshalle Woodward, a Writing Center instructor, agrees and reports, “I routinely arrive for my 7 p.m. shift to find 15 or more students waiting to compete for six available spots. The stakes are high; many people are working on projects due the next day and are ready to wait as long as it takes.” 

L&S Career Services also offers drop-in advising on résumés and cover letters in the Student Services Area.Greg Iaccarino speaks of the location as aligning with the office’s plan to “provide outreach advising in visible and convenient areas of campus for students, with College Library being the prime location.”

Other occasional users of the space include the Center for the First-Year Experience, which held one-on-one listening sessions with students; the Morgridge Center, which uses the space to recruit students for service learning opportunities; and Do IT, which promoted assistance with software.

The combination of services all in one location offers a holistic approach to supporting student success.

The eagerness of the various student services offices to provide assistance in the space has been a confirmation of one of the library’s own priorities, to meet student needs at times and locations that are convenient to them.

– By Carrie Kruse and Pamela O’Donnell