Imagine taking a History course about the Cold War, that dangerous and extraordinary period which continues to impact our world today. Combing through journals and history books would be necessary for researching the final paper, but what if students could also read, touch, and analyze a collection of pamphlets published at the time by the Canadian government to prepare the population for nuclear attack? This is the type of resources that students and faculty can access in the Archives and Special Collections at the MRU Library—it’s a teaching and research resource that provide direct evidence of the past.
The Archives and Special Collections now offers an online database that allows Library users to access rare primary sources from the classroom or even from the comfort of their own homes. Archives Search, launched on October 25, contains descriptions of over 2,600 historical records held by the Archives and Special Collections. It also contains over 1,400 digitized photographs and documents, allowing far greater access to these sources while also helping to preserve fragile originals.
“Archives contain the unique unpublished primary sources that history is written from,” explains Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Peter Houston. The launch of this new online resource is a big step towards his goal of connecting as many students and faculty as possible to the Archives’ valuable collections so that they can be used for teaching and research. Since some records are so delicate, having a digital copy will also help to preserve the originals for future generations.
Archives Search is now available via the Archives and Special Collections webpage. Simply enter a search term and the database will find all available relevant records. Most records have to be accessed in person in the Archives’ Reading Room on the 4th floor of the Library, but those that have been digitized are available as downloadable high resolution images. There’s also an Archives Research Guide for those who may be new to searching and using archival materials.
The search database currently holds 10 percent of total Archives collections. Houston encourages users who don’t find what they’re looking for to contact the Archives. Descriptions and digitized records will be gradually added to Archives Search over time. Houston says the Archives team prioritizes collections that are relevant to current courses at MRU, or that are accessed most frequently by researchers or instructors who bring their classes to Archives for instruction.
“This summer we’ve digitized a new collection of medieval manuscripts (some of which are up to 800 years old) because they are already being heavily used by Mount Royal students in English and History,” says Houston. “This is a perfect example of the benefits of digitization since it not only helps protect the original manuscripts, but users can easily view and download digital copies for study.”
As part of the MRU Library, the Archives and Special Collections is open to everyone, Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Did you know the Library Reserve Collection includes required textbooks for a variety of courses currently offered at MRU?
The Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) and the Library partner every semester to purchase new textbooks from the MRU Bookstore that are kept behind the Library Service Desk. The selection covers a variety of subjects and new additions to the collection are often decided based on demand from students as well as course popularity and class size.
“Partnering with SAMRU on the Textbook Purchase Program helps us to make as many assigned textbooks available for loan to students as possible” says Library Public Services Associate Dean Katharine Barrette. “Assigned textbooks already held by the Library are moved down to Reserves each semester but SAMRU’s contribution to this partnership is what helps us to add new texts each semester and provide more free access to required readings for our students. The MRU Bookstore also gives this project a discount on each book purchased so our shared budget for book-buying goes further.”
Many of the popular books in the Reserve Collection are available to students on a two hour loan while others can be borrowed for up to one week. Having course textbooks available for students to borrow is typically seen as a convenient option for students while on campus—this allows them to stop in to the Library and review course content before an exam. But there are a portion of Library users who rely on this resource as a temporary measure while managing their finances.
“SAMRU partners to support the Library Reserve Collection to help make textbooks more accessible and affordable for students,” says Cordelia Snowdon, SAMRU Vice-President, Academic. “This program helps ensure that students do not have to choose between their finances and academic success, and represents our commitment to learning excellence.”
The recent Fall/Winter 2018 textbook purchase allowed us to bring in textbooks for 36 courses offered here at MRU, which means that 1,800 students now have free access to their course text.
Find textbooks the Library has available in the Reserve Collection by using LibrarySearch Course Reserve function. Enter the course name in the search tool and review results to find relevant materials available at the Service Desk.
The Library’s student employee team members consistently rise to the occasion, tackling projects that are not only intricate but will have a meaningful impact on Library spaces long after graduation.
Being a student is busy and hard work. MRU Library is fortunate to have countless highly skilled and talented students apply to work various positions, while pursuing their studies, that support the greater MRU Community. Projects like a custom web application, mapping data, and a process to track the user experience have been led by ambitious undergrads.
An appetite to improve the status quo
Shuntian Li, who also goes by “Eddie”, is a true self-starter. The 4th year Computer Information Systems student has created an app that tracks the use of Library spaces, which ultimately provides insight on staffing, hours, and allocation of Library resources. When Li is asked to speak to the process he took to draft, design and program the app, the 24-year-old buzzes with excitement as he explains the countless hours he has spent combing through online resources to teach himself Swift—a programing language required to complete the project. This is the first app Li has ever created but he was recommended for this position by his professors who recognized his potential. He says has genuinely enjoyed being able to apply many of the teachings he’s received through his courses and acquire a specific skill that will help him as he builds his career.
“I knew this would be a good chance to learn something new. I wanted to take that challenge,” says Li.
The international student originally from Zhongshan, China is currently training Library staff on how to use and export data from the app that allows them to easily enter and track the amount of users in the Library, which informs how Library spaces are used. The ability to track this information digitally is very necessary since the Library moved from the Lincoln Park Campus building to a 16,000-square-metre space in the Riddell Library and Learning Centre in 2017.
“Our current head counting system with paper and pencil worked fine with our old simple Library layout”, says Beverly Van Horne, Library Public Services Manager. “We now we have 4 floors of Library spaces to track our users, including 31 bookable group rooms, and we needed a better process to capture that data. This new head counting app that Eddie has developed will be more accurate, allow us to use the information more creatively by grouping like spaces together to determine types of usage, and will be much easier and quicker for those collecting the data.”
Spot a problem, be the solution
Zoe Slusar is an engaged student who absolutely loves the journey she’s on here at MRU. Slusar is one of many student staff members who work on the Library Service Desk and her goal is simple: help other students access the countless resources available in the Library while doing her part to improve campus life for current and future peers.
As a student entering her final year at MRU, she has carved out many opportunities to volunteer and work with a variety of departments and groups across campus and she admits that she couldn’t resist a chance to work in the Library when she was offered a position as a Service Desk Casual shortly after the grand opening of the Riddell Library and Learning Centre last September.
”I feel like [the Library] is a legacy space on campus. I tell my parents that I prolonged my degree because I needed to use the new Library”, says Slusar with a laugh.
She’s lighthearted and has a sense of humour as she thinks back on everything she’s been a part of on campus that will end with her attaining her degree in June 2019. But when Slusar speaks to her role on the Library Service Desk, the Anthropology major comes across as measured, focused and confident about what she and her peers can achieve.
Slusar has taken the initiative to propose a system that involves her and fellow students who work on the Service Desk to strategically gather feedback from Library users as they are helped during the checkout process or throughout the building. Slusar noticed that student staff members who typically work a few shifts a week, in the evenings, have a particular advantage when it comes to observing and relating to Library users during night shifts since it is mostly students working on assignments.
”We’re staff who are connecting with the customers because we have also shared that lived experience. That’s a really special relationship,” says Slusar. “We know what it’s like if a paper is due and you can’t print it.”
Slusar’s proposal is simple: a process to record feedback, comments, concerns, and positive remarks that students often feel comfortable sharing with someone they may have had a class with. She’s confident this process, which is currently being put in place, will allow for the Library and the general MRU Community to hear suggestions on how to maintain or adjust elements of campus life that will help to improve students’ experience on campus.
“I’m thrilled to have Zoe as part of our casual Library team,” says Denise Upton, Library Evening/Weekend Supervisor. “She is a wonderful ambassador for the Library and MRU as a whole, and truly cares about student success. Her positivity is infectious and makes the Library a welcoming place for all.”
From the classroom to the office
As a new graduate with a Bachelor of Computer Information Systems degree, Mark Ladoing is now starting a new chapter after completing a major accomplishment. He secured his first information technology (IT) position all before he walked the graduation stage.
Ladoing, 23, worked with the Library Information Systems team as an Information Technology Assistant for a four month work term, which he completed this past April, and was a requirement for his program. It was an introduction to the real world application of what he was learning in classes since he was tasked with projects that allow digital spaces in the Library to run efficiently as well as data recording that will help direct maintenance priorities for the Library website.
Ladoing, who is incredibly detail oriented, tracked and recorded the responsiveness of each page on the Library website, which will allow the design elements to be evaluated and potentially updated in an effort to connect them to various devices.
He also worked on scripts, a sequence of code, to assist with presentations being displayed properly on the Visualization Wall in the Ideas Lounge. Ladoing, who first started his degree program in 2013, also assisted with programming that will allow the Library to include wayfinding for users in LibrarySearch— the newly launched online search platform.
“Initially when I started working here I was so nervous,” explains Mark, who describes himself as reserved. “As time went on I was able to open up more and it became easier for me to collaborate with everyone.”
Ladoing reflects on this work placement and adds that it felt good to be part of a team that wants him to succeed. He is now back in his hometown of Strathmore, Alberta and looks forward to securing his next IT position.