As of Jan. 1, the DiMenna-Nyselius library has a new University Librarian in Christina S. McGowan. McGowan is not a new figure in the university library, having a long record of working within the library’s community.
Here at Fairfield University she has worked as the head reference librarian from 2003 to 2011, and then as the assistant university librarian for reference and circulation services from 2011 until May of 2019. She has been working for the university for 22 years now, after first working at Sacred Heart University for three years. McGowan was also an interim university librarian two seperate times before actually receiving the job as of this year.
She thought she was “ready for the next step” when coming to Fairfield and that she “has been fortunate to get a new position” which has “allowed [her] to be challenged” throughout her career here.
The Mirror also got the chance to ask McGowan about some of the changes she wants to use her new positions to make. She spoke about the recent introduction of “external reviewers,” who are professionals that were hired to take a “holistic view” of the state of the library as it currently is.
These reviewers have generated a report that has been shared with the university provost and will be shared with the library staff this week. Due to the fact that the report’s findings have not been released to the staff, McGowan did not want to release these findings The Mirror at the time of reporting.
The report was contributed to by students, faculty and administration to create the final findings.
She commented on the findings of the report, saying that “some of them did not surprise me at all.”
She has been a co-chair of the Academic Commons working group since August, and the group has been working to meet their goal of collaboration within the library and its programs. The Academic Commons working group is made up of people from all of the different offices in the library that meet to discuss things like logistics, marketing and research.
Some of the big projects McGowan wants to work on this year involve aspects of the Academic Commons, or the new collection of offices including The Writing and Math Centers, The Office of Academic Retention, and others, all just installed this year.
McGowan said that the group asks, “Now that we are all together, what are the things that will help us be a more cohesive unit and work better for the benefit of the students?”
She has had a really positive experience with working with the other offices, and it is something she wants to continue into the new year.
One of the most pressing issues for the library this year, and that The Mirror has reported on previously, is the loss of seating to the renovations that occurred earlier in the year. There has been a sense of worry among students about available study spaces and if adding new offices was the best use of that space.
When asked about these concerns, McGowan said, “I don’t have the exact numbers, but we heard that we have the same number of seating if you include the Writing Center and the tutoring rooms.”
The staff also conducted multiple surveys during finals week, such as the “Why did you choose this seat?” survey to try and distinguish the best way to use their available space.
The library staff are working with facilities and the provost’s office to figure out how to optimize the space. They have been given the funds to update their seating in the downstairs portion of the library to make sure that the space, which is used the least by students, is updated.
“We hear you and we want to fix the problem not just in the anecdotal but physically. It is something that is incredibly important to us,” McGowan said.
McGowan also commented on the new programs she believes the library could offer, speaking specifically about the Student Library Advisory Board and how she “always wants to hear from students about what they want to see in the library.”
Other such programs included the citation programs the library holds to help students learn how to properly cite throughout the year and those in partnership with the Fairfield Public Library like “One Book One Town,” where all of the libraries encourage their patrons to read the same book and plan multiple events around it to bring the libraries together.
The library under McGowan wants to always “work to support students,” but is also expanding their programs to faculty. They are sending out a survey to figure out what faculty needs, things like “support for classes, publishing workshops and publishing celebrations.”
The major goals of the library appear to remain the same: to support the students, the faculty and the University.