Books and Beyond


"A good library is one that is used," says Chabot.
Photo: Carly Chamberlin '04, courtesy of the Ithacan

Lisabeth "Lis" Chabot can't say enough about the opportunities she sees for the Ithaca College library. Installed as College librarian in July, Chabot came from 21 years in a similar job at Mary Baldwin College, an institution of about 1,300 students in Virginia. She has a bachelor's degree in history from Miami University of Ohio and a master's degree in library science from the University of Michigan.

Chabot intends to reinvigorate the image and presence of the library on campus through the development of new user-centered services and resources. Her plan for doing so includes installation of the College's first wireless network, already under way. Since October students have been able to check out one of 10 College-owned laptops and take them anywhere within the library building, where they can sign onto the Internet without hooking up to an ISB port.

Other areas of the College are soon to follow, says Mike Taves, director of technical support services in the Office of Information Technology Services. Taves is working with Chabot to set up a virtual private network that will protect the security of data transmitted over wireless computers. "A VPN allows you to require a log-in to access those services," Taves explains, thus preventing unauthorized surveillance of data intercepted over the wireless network. "Eventually," says Chabot, "the goal is for anybody with a laptop to walk in and use it anywhere in the building--and to make that available everywhere on campus. We're glad to be the test site for this because it enhances our teaching and learning role."

Chabot is also installing upgraded software packages on library computers, planning for additional collaborative study areas in response to student requests for group work space, and developing a digital audio reserve system to make the College's music library resources more accessible.

Provost Peter Bardaglio says he's excited to see how Chabot will transform the College library system. "She has demonstrated a strong record of technological innovation, collection management, national involvement in her profession, and fund-raising," says Bardaglio, who also says he admires "her commitment to the instructional role of the library and her ability to be a bold and energetic champion for this vital unit of the academic enterprise."

ICQintern Nicole Gerring '05 sat down with Chabot recently for a Q&A session. Here are excerpts:

Why did you decide to make library science your life's work?

I wanted to support the teaching role in higher education and also work in an environment that interests me.

How has technology changed the role of campus libraries?

The fundamental role of libraries has not changed. What has changed is how we deliver services and provide resources. The amount of information available to our users has expanded exponentially. The challenge for faculty and librarians is in evaluating this in-formation and teaching students how to evaluate it.

Does in-home computer use decrease the need for libraries?

If you know what your users want, they will come. If you provide services and resources that are tied to what they're learning in courses and if librarians work collaboratively with faculty, then users will have a compelling reason to visit the library.

What are your objectives?

A good library is one that is used. My goal is to help students and faculty find material that supports teaching and learning. I'd like to heighten the presence of the library at the College. I've heard faculty say the library needs work. We'll run focus groups with students and faculty to find out what folks want. I am confident that we can create a new future building on the existing quality in staff and information resources.

How will you work with faculty?

I plan to visit with individual departments to get a sense of faculty resource and service needs. I am working on a pilot project to develop curriculum-integrated research activities. We are also developing a series of library workshops.

How are you adjusting to Ithaca?

I feel welcome here. This position is a great fit in terms of where I am in my professional career and where Ithaca College is in its evolution.

--Nicole Gerring '05

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A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 9 October, 2003