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RCC'S library a resource gem

Ted Thomas | 1/5/2011, 7:41 a.m.


 

Mark Lawrence, library director at Roxbury Community College, displays a well-deserved pride while describing the advances the library has made under his leadership.

Lawrence is quick to point out that the improvements to the library, which place it in the forefront of community college libraries in the Commonwealth, were the result of staunch support by the college’s administration.

Taking advantage of available technology, the library now offers thousands of online books to RCC students, faculty and staff. “We have 20,000 online books,” Lawrence noted. “We have what is called ‘The Community College Collection,’ which is a generic collection of e-books that would fit just about any community college.” The result is that a vast array of books is literally a touch or two away.

“In addition to that we can purchase books that fit more closely (to curricular items) and are not in the general collection. With the addition of the e-books, “the overall library book collection has increased by fifty percent.” With the library now housing some 40,000 to 60,000 items, Lawrence said that “this is really an enormous increase.”

In addition to the e-books, the library has 5,500 streaming videos that also support the college’s curriculum. The videos were introduced to the college in September and in the first three months were used about 1,500 times by students and faculty.

In terms of curriculum support, faculty members can assign videos for students to watch at home, for example, and then discuss them during class time. The videos cover the whole range of academic topics including political science, economics, science, math and the humanities. The streaming videos “were very popular things from the get go,” Lawrence said. “This is cutting edge stuff,” he concluded.

The importance of physical books has not been lost on Lawrence in all of the developing technology. “We purchase about 2,000 books a year. The point (of most of the purchases) is to support the curriculum.”

Another source of pride for Lawrence and something “that blows peoples’ minds” are more than 60 databases filled with articles and online reference materials. There are an astounding number of articles available online. “There are literally more than 50 million articles in these resources.” Because of available technology, “a small community college library has the capability to have the resources only available to a much larger college library. It’s a completely different world.”

The acquisition of so much learning material has presented Lawrence and his staff with unique teaching opportunities. An example would be how to help students find “appropriate and quality informational articles.” It is not always an easy task “because most students think they know how to find information by (only) searching Google and whatever pops up could be good or garbage.”

To address this issue the library staff teaches students how to find quality informational articles through the library’s many resources.

The online resources and technological advances have greatly expanded the library’s resources, but it doesn’t end there. Another area of expansion has been the library staff. “Seven years ago I was the only full-time professional staff member,” Lawrence recalled. “Now there are four full-time staff members. That is a significant increase. And it is a significant commitment of the college administration to support this kind of programming.”

Lawrence praised his staff for their professionalism. It is the professional staff that helps students with online resources, tutorials, research papers and the like. “It’s the professional staff that conducts the 150 workshops each year which reach most of the students who attend the college.”

To compliment the wealth of resources, Lawrence has created a physical environment conducive to learning. Since last August, the library has sported some new furniture. “Some of the new furniture is specifically designed to encourage silent individual study,” he said. Because students like to study in different ways, there is a “group study room” for students who study better in a group setting.

Throw in potted plants and more than 20 pieces of original art donated by the Art Connection; the library’s aesthetic appeal makes it the ideal learning place.

And the students have responded. There was an estimated 140,000 RCC student visits at the library last year. That number represents the largest in the history of the library. It is a benchmark that Lawrence expects will be surpassed this year.