Students, both new and old, will be in for a new experience when they visit the USF Tampa Campus Library this semester.
A renovated first floor holds the Information Commons, which includes the Library’s reference collection, a computer lab and information desks, which are run by Library staff and students trained to manage the help desk for Academic Computing. There is also an informal seating area situated near numerous broadband data ports for laptop computers. Students can also access the USF wireless network from anywhere in the IC.
“I think the thing to stress is that this is a partnership between the (USF) Tampa Library and Academic Computing to create a learning environment,” said Nancy Cunningham, the library’s associate director of reference and instruction. “There are about 114 computers with a range of software, including Microsoft Suite, as well as access to more sophisticated programs, like statistical and presentational software.”
Cunningham also said the IC will be in operation during the Library’s regular hours, so students working late on papers or research will have the same services offered as those who utilize the Library in the morning or afternoon.
With the new computers and updated facicities, Skye Rodgers, the communication manager of USF’s Library system, said the cost would not be passed on to students.
“(The changes cost) just under half a million dollars,” Rodgers said. “We managed to squeeze this out of our bare-bones (operating) budget.”
Last year, the majority of Academic Computing, including the help desk, was located on the sixth floor. Now, much of it will be provided in the IC.
Library personnel expects students will face some confusion at the beginning of the semester because of the IC, but the pros for the changes to the Library outweigh the consequences, they said.
“Before this partnership, we had our computer lab on the first floor,” said Alicia Balsera, the associate director of Academic Computing. “The Library also had some computers on the first floor. Our lab supported all of the applications students would need, but the Library didn’t have those and it was confusing for students.”
Employees also foresee problems involving the new USF ID numbers, which have replaced Social Security numbers as student identifiers in OASIS.
Michael Lindemuth, a student who works at the Academic Computing Help Desk and is entering his junior year, has fielded this problem a few times over the summer.
“I’ve had two or three people say they can’t log in to Blackboard with their new ID,” Lindemuth said. “They think that it replaces everything at USF.”
While many people at the Library believe that potential problems will lessen as students become acquainted with the new systems, the Tampa branch offers classes to familiarize its patrons with the Library’s services and technology.
Rodgers said that there are classes available to students to help them learn how to use catalogs and other services for research and personal use.
Balsera stressed the importance of the Academic Computing Web site, and the classes they offer for hands-on training in many different programs students may use while in school and in their professional lives.
“There is training and the current workshop schedule (on the site),” Balsera said. “Students can have workshops on Blackboard, HTML and (software) programs.”
The Library also offers services that people can use with their home computers.
“We have our Ask-A-Librarian service, interlibrary loans, (book holds) and access to encyclopedias and style guides for APA and MLA under electronic resources,” said Jana Martin, a reference librarian.
To add a new level of service to Library patrons, librarians will roam through the IC to offer help when needed. The computers throughout the area will be equipped with a program that will allow students to alert staff if they need help.
Martin stresses that it is important for students to go to Library staff for help.
“Don’t hesitate to come ask us,” Martin said. “Otherwise, we’re just waiting. We want to help people.”