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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Library wins national award, celebrates

By Christopher Squier

Standing at 60,739 square feet and built in 1959, Burling Library is finally getting recognized as the excellent institution it is. Last Friday, outside Burling, librarians from around Iowa, students and staff gathered for the Libraries’ ceremony to receive and celebrate the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award for 2011, presented to Grinnell College.

A student studies on a computer in Burling Library on Thursday afternoon. Photograph taken by Radka Slamova.

The College found out they won the award in early January, after submitting a 20 page essay on the many excellent features of the library that distinguish is as one of the best academic libraries in the nation this year.

The Association of College and Research Libraries, ACRL, who presented the award, gives three awards each year, one to a research university, one to a college and one to a community college. Grinnell, of course, won the college award.

Phil Jones, Reference Librarian, said that the awards committee cited specific programs in terms of excellence.

“They cited our information literacy program, the teaching that our library does with tutorial and classes thereafter,” Jones said. “As well as the teaching that goes on at the reference desk. They also cited a program that we started in the last couple years, in which students work at the reference desk and are called Reference Assistants.”

Additionally, they were cited for their everyday operations, and the attitude which is in place in the library of always trying to do what they do better.

At the award ceremony, the president of the ACRL, Lisa Hinchliffe, formally presented the libraries with a trophy, and spoke about the reasons for the award, what it means and how rare it is.

“They were very pleased to give it to us,” Jones said.

President Kington, Dean of the College Paula Smith and Librarian of the College Richard Fyffe spoke briefly as well.
As reported on Grinnell College’s website, Richard Fyffe remarked that “As libraries continue to evolve, our commitment to the college’s liberal-arts mission and program helps to ensure our effectiveness. The Libraries are delighted to be recognized with this national award, which is testimony to the hard work, creativity and dedication of the library staff and to the ongoing support of the campus community. We have worked especially hard to ensure that our programs and service remain deeply integrated with campus learning, teaching and research.”

“We asked colleagues from around the state and many of them came,” Jones said. Additionally, there were about 30 students in attendance.

After the ceremony, the librarians lunched in Main Quad.

“There are two reasons we got the award,” Jones said. “One is that we do have a very good, dedicated staff, and I think that what makes the staff effective is that we like working with students and helping them and we have a lot to offer them.There are just an awful lot of strategies and tips and even secrets about doing research to find things and to figure out what would be useful, possible, potential sources for your work.”

The second reason goes beyond the countless books the library holds. “It has to do with the attitudes and the roles that people who work in the library see that they have,” Jones said. “The students and the staff are very oriented towards helping the public and working with students and faculty, because we like to.”

One of the other unique aspects of the library is the regular schedule of public events.

“We have frequent events here, probably between six and ten each semester, which is a pretty active event calendar,” Jones said.

Herbie Lynn ’11, reference assistant, listed the a cappella groups G-tones, Con Brio and Noteworthy as just some of the events taking place in Burling.

Of course, the library excellence award increases students’ hopes of a new building for Burling someday, which has not been renovated in 29 years. Jones, however, tends to think about library improvements in terms of services and programs, such as the expanding reference assistant program.

“I guess what I would say about the library facilities and the idea of the library as an academic commons that have been talked about on campus the last couple of years, is that the campus this next year is going to be going through a strategic planning process, and I look for the library’s future to be discussed and, if not determined, certainly considered, thought about and moved forward on.”

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