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New dean and university librarian aims to expand functionality of Belk Library

August 30, 2012

Joan Ruelle assumed the position of dean and university librarian June 1. Photo courtesy of University Relations.

The first week of class inspires a new energy within Belk Library, yet the new dean and university librarian envisions a library that reaches beyond the brick walls and delves into Elon University’s campus life.

“One thing we are emphasizing is outreach of the library throughout the campus community,” said Joan Ruelle, who assumed the position June 1.

Ruelle aims to establish partnerships with organizations throughout campus in order to enhance the library’s activity in the Elon community, she said.

“I expect it to really happen because she’s bringing in new, fresh ideas and she has lots of ideas that most everyone would be on board with,” said Terry Buckley, assistant to the dean in Belk Library. “(The library’s) not going to go stale by any means.”

The library staff intends to participate in Campus Fest, an upcoming event that invites anyone involved with campus life at Elon to demonstrate their contributions to the university culture, Ruelle said.

“I think we are doing a good job with students who do come to the library, but how do we reach those for whom that is not a habit right now?” she asked.

The continuation of existing programs ensures services associated with Belk Library are not confined to the physical structure.

The Liaison Librarians and Personal Librarian programs, two already established initiatives, help librarians become an intrinsic part of academic life. The Liaison Librarians program partners librarians with faculty within a designated department to offer further instruction and assistance in scholarship and research.

“The focus is emphasizing the strength we already have and giving additional energy there and see where it goes,” she said.

Furthermore, first-year students are matched with a librarian who will provide additional support.

“So there is less anxiety to come into the library and ask for assistance,” Ruelle said of her expectations for the programs.

The staff is also exploring resources to increase recreational reading among Elon students. She said she hopes visiting the library will become part of students’ routines, whether it is to decompress, read casually or study.

While serving as the university librarian at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va., Ruelle built a librarian program attractive to the student body, said Mary Wise, associate vice president of academic affairs and chairwoman of the selection committee, in a previous interview with The Pendulum. To increase the appeal of the library, Ruelle implemented a program titled Rock the Stacks, during which bands were invited to perform in the library.

“I think it would be nice if people thought of us as a safe space, a study space, a research space,” Ruelle said.

Although she is just establishing her footing at Elon, the library has already undergone some changes during the summer.  The second floor of the library contains more study spaces, lamps and outlets. The alteration developed as a result of student suggestions offered last spring.

Even though Ruelle’s familiarity with technological literacy appealed to the selection committee, she said she believes the institution has already incorporated technology into the academic curriculum well.

“We’re actually well positioned in terms of technology,” she said. “We have a good array of different databases and electronic content that is available and that is a good match for the curriculum and community.”

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