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From the Dean's Desk: Reflections

Dr. Rosita E. Hopper, Johnson & Wales University dean of libraries, blogs about the life of the library.

November 2013

Coming in December, the Peace Dialogues Discussion Group is hosting an introductory session on meditation. Led by meditation instructor, Sharon Marie Melesko, the event will be open to all JWU students, faculty and staff.  It will consist of a period for guided meditation, plus a chance to discuss with other participants the potential value of meditiation, and how the inward condition of individuals can affect those with whom they come into contact.

  • Date: Friday December 13
  • Time: 12 noon to 1 pm
  • Place: Alumni Room, Yena Center 3rd floor

Pre-registration is not required.  For more information contact rhopper@jwu.edu

October 2013

Notes from the June meeting of the Peace Dialogues discussion group:

Can an individual's state of mind influence those around him?  Most people would say, "Of course it can!" Based on our own lifetime experiences we know that people are highly sensitive to the mood of those around them. Individuals in a contented and positive frame of mind are easy and pleasant to be with, and make group activities flow smoothly.  Conversely, it can be stressful, hard to relax, or hard to be productive around individuals who are disgruntled and negative.  This line of thinking leads naturally to the conclusion that by any one of us, by achieving a sense of inner peace and contentment, can have a positive and peace-inducing influence on others.

Coming soon,the Peace Dialogues discussion group will be focussing its sessions on the practice of meditation for creating individual inner peace.  Meditation instructors from the community will be invited to lead participants through exercises designed to achieve a meditative state.  Following each session, partcipants will reflect on their feelings and the potential of meditation.  

Peace Dialgoues sessions are open to all JWU students, faculty and staff.  Announcements of upcoming sessions will appear in eBriefs and jwuLink.  

June 2013

Today we welcome to our "Peace Dialogues" discussion Christopher Westgate, PhD, and Scott Oberacker, PhD, Johnson & Wales University professors in communications and media.  Our topic--journalism and mass media--grew out of the conversation started in May at the first "Peace Dialogues" discussion when we pondered the societal effect of violence in mass media entertainment, as well as the ability of journalists to maintain healthy skepticism in the face of market pressure to "give the public what it wants."  

A launch point for today's discussion will be Bill Moyers Journal: Buying the War.  And then we'll see where our conversation takes us.  The goal of the "Peace Dialogues" discussion group is only this: through thoughtful conversations about peace, to attempt to bring balance to a seemingly reflexive inclination towards violent responses to the world's--and our own individual--conflicts.

Join us!  

When: Wednesday June 19, 2013, 12-1 p.m.
Where: Library Conference Room (The Yena Center)!

April 2013

Shock. Horror. Pain. Grief. Fear. Anger. These are some of the common emotions with which we are left in the aftermath of acts of violence such as befell Providence's neighbor city only two days ago at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a footrace held annually since 1897 on the third Monday in April.  Upon hearing the news, we as individuals reach out first to neighbors, friends and family asking were you there, are you alright, are your loved ones alright.  Once sssured that we ourselves are not touched directly by the tragedy we think next of those who were, their hideous anguish, and our hearts break on their behalf.  And then we listen and watch as law enforcement and government officials, journalists and commentators begin to share details and some interpretation of the events to which we are all reacting so emotionally.  The work of forensic analysis begins, the hunt for the perpetrators, the review of security efforts, and of course the gathering of a community's civic resources to aid those who were most directly harmed.

For me, the question is what to take away from such an unexpected tragedy.  In my heart of hearts I do not believe that even the best security measures in the world can protect us indefinitely from such terroristic events.  Nor do I believe that identifying and successfully prosecuting the perpetrators of such events--as appropriate as it is to do so--can ever bring me or society much real comfort.  No.  For me the take away is this: that for each of us, day in and day out, on the smallest or the largest scale, we must strive to make peace.   When in our everyday lives we hear words spoken in anger or resentment we must stop and listen, even if only to acknowledge the right of each and every individual to feel what they feel.  And when we can do more, when we can directly improve the conditions of others, when we can share some of our own good fortune, when we can reach out and embrace even those with whom we disagree, we are helping to reduce the likelihood that someone somewhere will feel so angry and so hurt that they want nothing more than to punish the world. 

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." So said social activist and pacifist Desmond Tutu.  My own twist: acts of kindness are the best medicine and the only valid response to signs of sickness in the human soul.

October 2012

The spirit of public journalism has come to Rhode Island in the form of a brand new venture in library advocacy.  Check out the recently launced Rhode Island Library Report.

March 2012

This year the library has been more active than ever in promoting the library as a space for appreciating fine arts.  In October we hosted "Possible Symbolics 33," an exhibit of abstract prints and paintings, as well as "found art" objects created by School of Technology professor Stephen Andrade.  Currently on display in the Downcity Library we have, "In Camera," more than 25 color photographs taken by Stephen Spencer, operations manager of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales.  Spencer has also worked for many years as a professional photographer.  

Also on display in our Downcity faciility are examples of art work by students in a Digital Media class.  At the harborside Library we are displaying a collection of cultural objects representing the nationalities of the library's student employees.  Also slated for Harborside in March, and in recognition of Women's History Month, is a display of handmade quilts.

October 2011

Ever since the start of the new academic year, JWU Library has been in heavy use by JWU students.  In fact, the September 2011 gate counts for both Downcity and Harborside showed an increase of about 2,000 per library over the gate counts from September 2010.  It's a great trend.  It suggests that JWU-Providence students not only feel comfortable and welcome in the library, but that they also take their studies seriously. Who wouldn't be pleased to know this?  Nevertheless, it raises some important management questions, one of which became very clear to me the other morning. 

It was early—maybe 7:15 a.m.—and the cleaning crew were still busy tidying up from the night before.  The trash cans were piled high with evidence of a trend that has been sweeping academic libraries across the country… snacking in the library.  I don’t know how many of you reading this blog can remember a time when having food in a library was unheard of.  The "no food or drink" policy was quite uniformly applied in all sorts of libraries until perhaps a decade ago.  Then sometime in the late 90s many librarians began to realize that if they wanted users to keep coming back, they were going to have to be a little more lenient with the policy.  They realized that people's expectations had changed, and that younger library users in particular were unaware of older social conventions related to appropriate library decorum.   At first many librarians started out by letting users bring water bottles, or other beverages to the library as long as they were in covered containers.  But of course it wasn’t long before users were bringing in light snacks as well—granola bars, crackers, etc.  So again librarians had to stop and think.  Do we want to be policing our premises, demanding that snacking library patrons take their snacks elsewhere?  How much of an issue is it?  A few crumbs on a table?  More trash to collect at the end of the day?  Maybe books get a little soiled but then, won't that happen anyway when someone borrows the book and takes it home?  For most librarians the answer was obvious: as long as snacking in the library didn’t get out of control, it seemed like a small concession to the times in which we live… people increasingly busy and self-absorbed, managing tight schedules, multi-tasking.  Besides, letting people have their snacks meant library personnel did not have to work so hard to police library user behavior.

But back to that morning about which I started to tell you.  What brought me up short and made me question our policy was the empty pizza box I saw perched on top of one of the trash cans.  Obviously there had been some pizza eaten in the library the night before.  My gut reaction was that having pizza in the library is going too far, but I also feel it's part of my job to seek input from others.  In particular, I want to hear from our users on this question.  If you are reading this blog then I am hoping that you use the JWU Library and can ask yourself this question:  if you are studying in the library and someone nearby is eating a pizza, or is eating some other temptingly fragrant food such as a burger and fries, does it bother you?  What about if they are munching audibly on potato chips or on an apple?  If it does bother you, what do you do about it?  Get up and move elsewhere?  Ask them to move elsewhere?  Here's another question: have you ever sat down in the library to study and found the table or chair grubby from someone else’s food or drink?  And if so, did it bother you? 

One of our reference librarians has a gentle way of approaching this issue:  she says that if the food someone in the library eating smells tempting enough to make her hungry, she considers the food inappropriate for consumption in the library.  Is that the principle we should follow?  Should we try to restrict the eating of pizza in the library?  If you have an opinion on this I would love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below!

September 2011(b)

Scenario: I'm walking through the Downcity library during the second week of classes one recent afternoon and the place is already thronging with busy, peroccupied students working alone or in groups.  Most of the computers in the front area by the reference desk are occupied, as well as those in the library classroom.  As I pass a small group of students who are just settling down together to do some work, I notice that one in particular wears an expression of annoyance as she heads from the direction of the classroom towards her group of friends.  Alert as I am to the needs of our most important customers (i.e. the students) my ears strain to catch the complaint she's muttering.  "Lots of them aren't even studying, they're just using Facebook!" she exclaims.  Aha!  Here's a familiar situation about which I've heard complaints in the past: students needing to use library computers for school work are aggravated when it appears that many are occupying computers for social networking or other recreational activities.  Quickly I step over: "I'm sorry, but our policy is to not restrict peoples' computer activites, however if you are looking for an available computer, there are more over there." I gesture to the Weybosset Street side of the library where only this summer we added 40 more computers to try to meet the ever-growing demand.  "Oh, I had no idea!" says the student, marching off to take her place at a vacant terminal.

The question this leaves us with is whether or not it is the duty of library personnel to monitor how long and for waht purposes library computers are being used, and attempt to restrict use according to some pre-established ideals.  Perhaps it seems like an easy question to answer but there are complicating factors.  First and foremost, it is JWU Library policy to comply with the freedom of information and access principles codified by the American Library Association Library Bill of Rights which supports access to information and opposes censorship, labeling, and restricting users' access to information of all kinds.  Let me put it another way: do JWU students want library personnel looking over their shoulders and "policing" their computer activities?  If you answered 'no' you've demonstrated insight into the value of the ALA Bill of Rights.

Another factor is that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are being used for an ever wider range of communications, such that the distinction between frivolous and serious online activity is no longer completely clear.  If you're a marketing student, you are probably paying close attention to new applications for social networking.  Should you be allowed to use a library computer to evaluate these activities?  Should library personnel have the right to ask you why you're using Facebook, whether for scholarly or for personal reasons?  Which activities should be blocked and which ones allowed?  While working on a computer, have you ever taken a break by checking your e-mail or your Facebook?  Should that be allowed?

Even if we could distniguish authorized from unauthorized activities, with more than 100 terminals now available in the Downcity library it's difficult to conceive of an efficient method by which to systematically restrict people to only the authorized uses.

Therefore, while I sympathize deeply with the frustrations of someone needing a computer when none are available, I cannot endorse any effort by library personnel to police or restrict activities.  The best that library personnel can do is a) continue to assess the demand for technology and work to make it available, and b) to occasionally make public announcements asking people who are not doing school work to voluntarily give up their seat.

It is also my fervent hope that JWU students themselves are commited to creating an equitable community through personal accountability.  This is a wordy way of saying that I want JWU students to pay attention to their environment and adjust their own actions for the good of the community.  Specificically, if you are using a library computer and you notice other people lining up for a seat at a terminal, consider giving up your own. Check in with yourself: have you been there fore more than 30 minutes?  Are you doing something that could be postponed?  If so, offer your seat to the next person in line.  If not, promise yourself that you'll do your work as efficiently as possible so as to make your computer available in the least possible amount of time.

One final thought: I'd like to hear from JWU students about this issue.  What do you think?  Do you agree with our policy to neigher monitor or interfere with individual computer use?  Or, would you like to see the library restrict in some way the amount of time spent--or the type of activities done--on library computers?  Leave a comment below.  

September 2011(a)

College students get a lot of advice.  If you attended the JWU convocation ceremony this past Monday, you heard plenty and all of it was good.  Students were advised to get enough exercise, get enough rest, get out there and network, take full advantage of campus activities and resources, get to know their professors, use the library (of course!), and explore Rhode Island.  Who could argue with any of the underlying principles?  It's all advice worth following.  There was however one piece that I think still needs reinforcing, and here it is:

Don't be ashamed of your own ignorance.  When you are a novice at something, own it!  

I'll say it again: don't be ashamed of your own ignorance.  Even if you are in your senior year of college, you are a novice at something, and therefore might be at risk of a  crippling fear: the fear of looking stupid.

When convocation guest speaker and JWU alum Cashwayme O. Brown, '11, advised students to "be the change" what he might have meant was "don't settle for remaining ignorant just because you're afraid to let your ignorance show."

Take it from this 54 year old that anxiety about looking stupid can be one of the biggest obstacles to learning that you will ever encounter... bigger than lack of time or tuition money... bigger than lack of exercise or sleep.  Yes!

Have you ever been in a class in which you were afraid to ask a question?  The teacher is explaining something and your mind just isn't latching on.  The teacher turns around and asks expectantly, "Any questions?"  You begin to imagine yourself raising your hand and as you do so you break into a nervous sweat.  Quickly you grlance around the room and see that nobody else appears to have any questions... and then, just as you are sitting there trying to compose your thoughts and build up your courage to speak out, the moment has passed.  The teacher--hearing no questions--has moved on.  So then you sit there, stewing over the lost opportunity and the fact that you are now going to have to find another way to get your question answered.  Will you hang around after class and approach the teacher, or perhaps e-mail them later?  Will you ask a classmate?  Or, will you instead simply take a deep breath and try to get by without the answer?  Chances are, your recourse will be the latter.  With luck, it won't make a huge difference and yet, with each such episode you forego one of life's greatest privileges, and an activity that is the most essential step to deep learning:  honestly and openly seeking help.

Unfortunately in our society, learning and success in gener are conflated with measurements of some type, i.e. how do you compare to everyon else?  It's no wonder that many suffer from the fear of looking stupid.

My point is that you have to keep trying to overcome that fear, and not let it get in the way of your education.  Publically admitting that you have a question might not come naturally to you.  You might have to practice a little... or a lot, but keep trying.  

The next time you have an honest question about something... JUST ASK!  What's the worst that can happen?  Maybe you get some attitude with the answer, but attitude is not going to kill you.  Fear of looking stupid, and therefore holding on a little longer to your own ignorance, just might. 

So where's a great place to start practicing asking questions?  The JWU Library,  Ask us anything.

May 2011

Heading into finals - It appears that yesterday someone went into one of the ladies' rooms in the Downcity Library, picked up the ceramic lid of a toilet cistern, and smashed it against the floor.  It is very sad to think that anyone at Johnson & Wales University would have so little regard for this community or for themselves, that they would do such a thing.  Certainly library administrators understand the range of frustrations that a student might be feeling, from anxiety about passing exams, to anger at not finding an available computer in the library, to experiencing a troubled romance.  Truly, on any given day, anyone in the world is likely to encounter problems that could make them feel boiling mad. The good news is that most people do not let their feelings overpower them to the point where they destroy public property.  Destruction of public property hurts not only the community but the vandal: first, there is less to go around of whatever was destroyed; then too, the organization responsible for replacing damaged property could be forced to raise service rates; worst of all, the vandal carries their soul the knowledge of their own destructive nature.  That is perhaps the hardest consequence of all.  Thus, if the person who caused the recent destruction in the bathroom wishes to come forward and speak with me, I would welcome the opportunity to have a serious conversation about what led them to that act. 

February 2011(b)

In association with Black History Month, JWU has been participating in the 22nd annual National African American Read-In, a program developed by the National Council of Teachers of English to help draw attention to literature by African American authors and about the African American experience.   JWU's participation and activities are coordinated by School of Arts & Sciences professor Tom Gaines.  Last week at the JWU Intercultural Center, in association with the Read-In, I and our digital services librarian, David Meincke, attended a talk by RI historian Ray Rickman.  Both Prof. Gaines and another JWU professor, Dr. Terry Novak, brought their classes to the talk.  Although Rickman arrived late and thus was able to speak for much less time than anticipated, he did make one very interesting analogy: he pointed out how much more attention has been paid to the Jewish Holocaust of WWII than to what he referred to as the African American Holocaust that was U.S. state sanctioned slavery of the 16th-19th centuries.  I was saddened that Rickman did not attempt to answer his own rhetorical question as to why such an imbalance exists, but instead left it open to the possibility of misapplied blame of Jews themselves, as if they might somehow be responsible for the imbalance. After all, such a question should not be framed in terms of a competition but rather in terms of what more can be done to give the hideous stain of slavery on U.S. history its rightful reckoning in our cultural consciousness.  Indeed one answer to that question lies in literature itself and the need for there to be so more written about the African American experience.  Did the students attending Rickman's talk make this connection?  Did they really understand the point of an African American Read-In?  I hope so.

February 2011(a)

Valentine's Day 2011 - Here's my Valentine to you: the first entry in a new blog about JWU Library.  So what's cooking?  The Yena Center HVAC renovation project is moving along steadily.  Thanks to the efforts of the VP of Academic Affairs, Dr. Jeffrey Senese, HVAC project manager Ray Way, and William Priante, Director of Admissions, students will be able to use four interview rooms in the Admissions suite as group study rooms while the Downcity library's study rooms are temporarily occupied by staff who have been relocated from the 3rd floor.  Thank you to all who helped make this happen!

Library Furniture - Before the end of the year, both Downcity and Harborside library will be getting new chairs for the study tables, study carrels, and computer stations!  A model has been chosen and is set to be delivered any day.  Meanwhile, Downcity library soft seating is also scheduled for replacement this year.  A great new model has been chosen and uphosterly selection is underway.

Dean of Libraries

Rosie Hopper's picture
Rosie Hopper
Contact:
Immediate Reference Assistance:

Yena Center: 401-598-1121

Friedman Center: 401-598-1466



Rosie Hopper

The Yena Center

111 Dorrance Street

Providence, RI 02903