The process of finding exactly what you’re looking for at Coulter Library has gotten easier for students. In July Onondaga Community College went online with a SUNY system-wide, cloud-based search engine. It provides simple, one-stop searching for books and e-books, videos, articles, digital media, and more. “This provides consistency among SUNY schools,” said Dennis Thoryk, Media Specialist at Coulter Library. “Students who walk into SUNY Oswego or SUNY Albany will be using the same system.” Thoryk oversaw the internal transition process which took about a year to complete and replaced a system which was approximately 20 years old.
Another benefit to the new system is its ability to reach beyond SUNY libraries. Thanks to an inter-library loan feature, if a student is looking for something which Coulter library doesn’t have the new search engine will also check area libraries which are not part of the SUNY system. Students using the new search system will always be receiving the latest information about what is available. “This is up to date because it’s cloud based. It’s completely different from what we used to have. It’s more secure and more up-to-date,” said Thoryk.
On this month’s edition of “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College” we highlight the newly renovated Coulter Library and Coulter Hall building. Our guest is Professor and Library Department Chair Pauline Lynch Shostack who was in charge of the library throughout the planning phase and the year-and-a-half long renovation.
The library includes more computers, study rooms, technology and seating than its predecessor. New additions include a café and charging lockers for students’ mobile devices. The improvements have resulted in a 25% increase in student use.
Coulter is a community library and is open to all members of the public. At the bottom of this story you will find a slideshow highlighting the building’s transformation. Enjoy the podcast!
Have you ever wished you had the opportunity to have a conversation with a police officer about what it’s like to work in law enforcement? Perhaps you’ve wanted to talk with someone about what it’s like be an immigrant in the United States. Or maybe you’ve wanted to discuss being LGBT in a straight world. Those interesting topics and many more were part of OCC’s Human Library event which was held Wednesday, October 4 on the third floor of the newly renovated Coulter Library.
The Human Library gave students the opportunity to sign out books for 30 minutes and ask questions. People from all walks of life played the role of “books” and shared their personal stories. The diverse set of book topics included “Turning ADHD into a Superpower,” “Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury” and “A Single Mom’s Adoption Journey.”
Haider Sakhizada was the book “Love Refugees for Who They Are.” He’s a native of Afghanistan who worked for the U.S. Army in Kabul as a combat translator, helping the military understand what was being said in the languages of Pashto and Farsi. Sakhizada and his family immigrated to the United States in 2008, entering in South Carolina. “It was very hostile and wasn’t as diverse as New York. When we could go to Walmart we would get things shouted at us.”
Sakhizada wound up reconnecting with a military officer he had worked with in Afghanistan and got a job with the U.S. Army traveling to military bases, teaching soldiers cultural awareness and language. The last base he worked at was Fort Drum (80 miles north of Syracuse) which is how he wound up settling in Syracuse. Today he works at Interfaith Works, manages its warehouse and talks with refugees about the process of assimilating into society. He enjoyed the opportunity to share his story at the Human Library. “It was so amazing. I was impressed with how diverse OCC is. The first person who talked to me was a student from Sudan. I was so happy to see her and talk about being refugees here.”
OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill was the book, “A Day in the Life of a College President.” One of her readers was student Lucy Altaee. “I enjoyed talking to her. She really helped me,” said Altaee. “I’m a teacher in my home country. She told me how I could get my certificate (to teach here). She told me her door is always open if I ever need anything.”
Dr. Crabill was one of more than 50 books available to be signed out. The event started at 9 a.m. and concluded at 3 p.m. Library Chair Pauline Lynch Shostack coordinated the event and said over 200 readers checked out books. “Several students told us they enjoyed the opportunity to talk to someone they may not have a chance to talk to otherwise and our books said they enjoyed sharing their stories with others.”
As students finished reading their books they had the opportunity to reflect on their human library experience while filling out a questionnaire. Their comments show what a huge success the event was.
“The Human Library was very interesting and enlightening.”
“Keep it up! This is a great thing.”
“It was valuable to gain a different human perspective on life.”
“Please keep this going in future years!”
“It was a wonderful experience! I’m so glad I came.”
“It was great to be able to ask questions of experts one-on-one in various fields. I loved talking to the books.”
“I had a great human book with tons of knowledge and great feedback!”
“I loved it! Being able to ask a book questions was an amazing experience!”
Congratulations to the Coulter Library staff for making the 2017 Human Library another huge success!
The transformation of the Coulter Library building is nearly complete! The renovation, which started in the fall 2015 semester has entered its final phase and is expected to wrap up this semester.
The dark wood and walls which greeted students and employees for more than 50 years have been replaced by lighter and brighter colors. A series of windows two floors high have been added to the main entrance, allowing more natural light into the library. During the renovation process shuttered skylights were discovered. They have been uncovered and restored.
Inside the main entrance is a new cafe which serves food and beverages. The library building includes a new Academic Computing Center and numerous group meeting rooms which have been overwhelmingly popular with students. Several offices have been relocated in the library building including:
Office of Accessibility Resources
EOP & CSTEP
Honors & Phi Theta Kappa
International Student Services
The library building opened in 1973 and had never been renovated.
The Children’s Books section on the second floor of the newly renovated Coulter Library has a “super” feel to it. Each letter in the “Children’s Book” sign includes special artwork. Behind each letter is a superhero which was drawn by a 4th grade student at Syracuse’s McKinley-Brighton Elementary School.
The best superhero drawings were selected to be on-display in OCC’s library. In January Cantor-Feller returned to McKinley-Brighton and gave each student who participated in the project a “Certificate of Awesomeness.” She also presented students with photos of their artwork hanging on the walls.
The superhero project is the product of a partnership between McKinley-Brighton and Onondaga Community College aimed at helping students think about career opportunities and higher education. OCC Administrators have also worked with students on journal making and qualities which make outstanding leaders.
You can see a slideshow of proud students and their superhero drawings in the library below.
The concept of a “human library” didn’t start on the OCC campus, but it did become so popular here it is now the focus of a study being led by Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, or “iSchool” as it is more commonly referred to. “We’re really excited to be a part of this,” said Pauline Lynch Shostack, Chair of OCC’s Coulter Library. “We hope it will lead to more of these kinds of events.”
The human library provides students the unique opportunity to ask “books” questions. Experts from the campus and the community play the role of books, sharing their personal stories with students in one-on-one or small group settings. For example, at the 2015 human library event OCC Faculty Chair J.T. Ryan was the book “Canal Boat Captain.” He told students stories about his days as a boat captain for Mid-Lakes Navigation.
Shostack first heard of a human library one night several years ago when she was scrolling through her Twitter feed. A college in western Massachusetts was tweeting about an event with human books. “I read the article and thought, ‘This would be a great library event!’ I followed the link in the story, found there was a human library organization in Denmark and kept reading more and more about it.”
Shostack and now retired librarian Angela Weiler began working on the concept and brought it to life at Coulter Library in 2013. “We did the first one and I said, ‘This is a wonderful way for community members to connect in a unique way!’ We should share it with local and regional libraries.” She contacted the Central New York Regional Library Council to organize a meeting with local and regional libraries. When Coulter hosted the human library one year later Syracuse University participated along with Tompkins Cortland Community College and some local public libraries.
In 2015 Coulter hosted the third edition of the human library. It was bigger and better than ever with more human books, more diversity and more students participating. In one room there was Professor Christine Braunberger, who had actually written a book on tattoos, playing the role of a human book discussing tattoos. Several media personalities participated and played the role of books which mirrored their careers including CNY Sportcaster and OCC Alumnus Niko Tamurian, WSYR TV Meteorologist Jim Teske and 93Q radio personality Amy Robbins. Once again the event was a huge success.
The human library is now the focus of a three-year project funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is part of the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program. Three faculty members from Syracuse University’s iSchool are partnering with Coulter Library and the Fayetteville Free Library to learn how to identify, catalog and electronically promote the human expertise available in their local communities. All of the information will be available for the public in a new Community Profile System app which the iSchool will develop.
This new app will give human library planners a foundation to work with. It will also give users a database of experts who can be utilized year round. “This will be an ongoing resource for us. Let’s say you are a student and you are putting together a paper on the Erie Canal. You would search the database, learn that one of our faculty members used to be a boat captain and you may be able to use him as a resource for your class work.”
OCC did not host a human library event this year because of the ongoing renovations in Coulter. The event will return in the spring 2017 semester when the work is complete and Coulter will be the test site for the app. “It’s very exciting to see how far this whole project has come and where it’s going,” said Shostack. “After doing this event for three years we realize what amazing expertise we have on our campus. This technology will help connect the campus community in ways they’re not usually connected.”
From the front all appears to be normal. Coulter Library doesn’t look much different from the day it opened back in 1973. But walk around to the back or the east side where a large crane has taken up residence and it’s easy to see something big is happening. The renovation of Coulter Library has begun!
The project is being done in three phases so the library can remain open for students and the entire campus community to use. Here’s the projected timeline (which is always subject to change):
Phase I Now to May 2016 The second and third floors of the library building located above the first floor book stacks will be renovated. When these floors reopen they will house the College archives, library media, reserves and reference departments. There will also be study rooms and additional student study space.
Phase II May 2016-August 2016 The first and second floors of the library closest to the entrance off the quad will be renovated. Along with a new entrance there will be an academic computing lab, a café, event space, and the Office of Accessibility Resources which is presently located on the first floor of the Gordon Student Center.
Phase III August 2016-January 2017 The first floor area where there are book stacks and quiet study space will be renovated. When complete it will feature a new study space and check-out services.
In January WSYR TV, Newschannel 9 broadcast a story on the renovations which you can view here.
At the bottom of this story is a series of renderings showing what the library may look like when the work is complete. Also, Penelope Klein and Vi Marcy who oversee Coulter Library Archives have created a slideshow which show historical photos of the library and campus. You can view the slideshow on the Coulter Library Archives webpage.
Anwer Mohammed is grateful to be in the United States and on the OCC campus. He’s a refugee from Iraq who left behind his mother, sisters and brothers when he came to the U.S. in August 2013. Mohammed spent two years learning English and is now enjoying his first semester at OCC. “I like the central education here. America is great. Here it is simple to improve yourself.” Mohammed is a full-time student whose goal is to become a civil engineer. He’s also enjoying his first job. Mohammed works in the Coulter Library through the College’s work-study program. “I arrange books and help anyone any way I can. I’m happy there is a job here for me.”
Mohammed has high goals. He wants to earn a college degree, become an American citizen and take advantage of everything the U.S. has to offer. “I thank the American government. Here you can find your freedom. Here you can do anything. I respect the people and I respect my freedom.”
Students had the unique opportunity to ask books questions during the Human Library event at Coulter Library. People played the role of “books,” sharing their personal stories with students in one-on-one or small group settings.
This was the third year the College hosted the event. “It’s grown each year in a number of ways,” said Pauline Lynch Shostack, Chair of OCC’s Coulter Library. “We had more students signing up for the event in advance, more human books participating, more volunteers working and longer hours for the event. It’s exciting how popular it has become.” Shostack and Angela Weiler, a Reference and Instruction Librarian, organized the event.
The Human Library was held on the third floor. Volunteers at a registration table greeted “books” and “readers” as they arrived. The wall behind the registration table was covered with a massive schedule of sessions and complete listing of all of the books. Volunteers worked to piece everything together and keep the schedule running on-time.
Rooms throughout the remainder of the floor were filled with colorful and informative conversations, and some visual presentations as well. Christine Braunberger, an English/Reading/Communication Professor, was the human book, “Stories in the Flesh: Tattoo in America.” Braunberger and student Cody Watson discussed each other’s tattoos. Watson is a student-veteran who served a year in Afghanistan while stationed at Fort Drum. “It was great to speak with her. She had an instant understanding of my tattoos and their origin,” said Watson.
Student Arlene Brodbeck, who is majoring in Communications, made an appointment with the book, “93Q Radio Personality.” The book was Amy Robbins who has been a staple in the Syracuse radio scene for more than a quarter of a century. “It was a wonderful experience to hear how she started and to understand there’s a lot more to her day than just talking on the radio,” said Brodbeck. “She told me the way to get started in the business is to get your foot in the door somewhere with an internship.”
Student Nick Swan, a Computer Information Systems major, was inspired by his book “Syracuse Firefighter.” Swan’s conversation with firefighter Patrick Foody left him pondering his career options. “It was amazing. It really opened my eyes. I didn’t know much about firefighting but now I’m considering a career in it.”
The Human Library is made possible in large part thanks to the event’s sponsors: OCC Foundation, Student Association, Diversity Services and American Food & Vending.
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