NIU Libraries Dean Fred Barnhart, a student success champion who has played a key role in helping the university overcome pandemic-related challenges, has accepted a second four-year term.
“I’m excited to continue our work as we demonstrate that academic libraries are more than books on a shelf or databases on a website,” Barnhart said. “At its heart are dedicated staff and faculty with specialized training and credentials who acquire, maintain and disseminate information and services daily throughout the year in support of our institutional mission.
Committed to student success, NIU Libraries have gone to extraordinary lengths during the most difficult times of the pandemic to continue their many services for the Huskie community while providing additional technology supports to students.
In conjunction with several other colleges and the Information Technology Division, the library expanded its fleet of circulating laptops by over 200 and also began circulating hotspots. The effort required rapid work to upgrade old laptops and the development of new ways (including UPS) to get laptops into the hands of students. In addition, the provost’s office received a GEER grant from Illinois that released more than 200 new laptop computers for the library. For fall 2022, the library is purchasing an additional 100 laptops for students, with plans to continue the program in the future.
The pandemic has also prompted the library to add tools, such as self-checkouts, pick-up lockers and book paging apps, which have increased independence for its patrons. “One of the things the pandemic has highlighted is the benefit of self-service tools for our users,” Barnhart said.
Barnhart and Professor Jessica Reyman then coordinated a group of campus-wide leaders to leverage what has been learned about remote working over the past two years. “After talking to colleagues at other institutions, it’s clear that the NIU is much more progressive in its thinking about how to leverage lessons learned from the pandemic,” Barnhart said.
More recently, academic libraries have successfully begun developing their Learning Commons in the Founders Memorial Library. The one-stop-shop promotes student success by bringing together a wide variety of services in one place, including writing help, research help, group study, and technology help. With support from Academic Affairs, the Learning Commons will begin in fall 2022 in a more welcoming location on the first floor of the Founders Memorial Library.
“By hiring a student success librarian, we were able to better integrate library services and professional education into the student experience,” Barnhart said. “The position has also been instrumental in promoting the Learning Commons and helping us partner with other units on campus, such as the Huskie Academic Support Center.”
The library has partnered with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CITL) to help students cover part of their textbook costs. The Course Materials Affordability Task Force, led by Barnhart and Jason Rhode, CITL’s Executive Director and Head of Online Learning, advocates and supports the adoption of free and open textbooks and other learning materials. low cost courses. The task force is co-chaired by Larissa Garcia and Tracy Miller and has grown to include faculty from several different colleges. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has also helped the library support textbook accessibility efforts with seed capital, and many faculty members have donated their own course materials to the library. Unsurprisingly, the initiative, run by DeeAnna Phares, has proven popular with students and faculty.
Barnhart’s first term also saw the creation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and the Library Programming and Promotions Committee. The DEI committee has worked to make libraries more accessible and inviting, and also seeks to revise policies to improve equity. The Programs and Promotions Committee was created to help the library formalize and coordinate efforts to promote not only library services, but also faculty and student scholarship and research. The committee has developed programs such as the annual faculty book reception, Tuba Christmas cosplay events to celebrate the graphic novel collection, faculty photography exhibits, and a tribute to renowned cellist Raya Garbosouva.
The library has also developed partnerships with Research and Innovation Partnerships in the 71 North Partnership Studio and with Outreach Engagement and Regional Development. “We are fortunate at NIU to be able to work with creative people outside of the library to advance the same goals – student success and expanding the impact of our faculty’s research,” Barnhart said.
One of the priorities of Barnhart’s second term will be the completion of the library’s strategic planning process. Goals will include maximizing student success through assessment and accountability, transforming collections to meet changing community needs, enriching user experiences, and increasing awareness and visibility of curricula. the library.
“We remain committed to keeping the library central to the academic and student success experience,” Barnhart said.