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Steely Library Receives Academic Unit Excellence in Access Award

May 20, 2022
The Provost’s Office celebrated Steely Library's advancements and commitment to student success throughout the 2021 academic year with one of NKU’s top honors: the Excellence in Access Award.
Dean Falcone accepts Excellence in Access Award on behalf of Steely Library from NKU President Ashish Vaidya
Dean Falcone accepts the Excellence in Access Award on behalf of Steely Library from NKU President Ashish Vaidya at the annual Academic Affairs and Staff Honors Awards.

At the end of each academic year, the Provost's Office awards individual faculty, staff, and academic units for their remarkable contributions to NKU. Academic units are eligible to receive only one of three awards—each award for accomplishing excellent work related to NKU's strategic framework, Success by Design. This year, the Provost's office recognized Steely's dedicated efforts in expanding programs, services, and delivery options to increase access and become a preferred destination for learners with the Excellence in Access Award.  

Steely Library is committed to providing NKU students a sense of belonging and what they need to succeed in a hybrid environment. Below are a few highlights of Steely's accomplishments throughout 2021.

Implemented Innovations to Improve Affordability

During a challenging and uncertain year, library faculty and staff piloted new services and expanded resources that mitigated costs for students and reduced financial barriers. The library continued to provide various content delivery options to enable the NKU community convenient and consistent access to information resources, including interlibrary loan, reserves, and the University Connect and Persist (UCAP) Lending Library, whether on or off-campus.

Expanded Access to Research Collections: Since January 2021, the library has added 47 new or upgraded databases. These resources support a broad range of academic programs across the university, including health sciences, business, education, communication, art history, engineering, the sciences, psychology, political science, and music. This list of databases includes several digital collections of primary sources that center the voices and experiences of underrepresented communities, supporting NKU's drive to become more inclusive and our goal to help students see themselves and their stories reflected in library collections. Furthermore, Steely added over 9,000 open access e-books from academic and trade publishers to the library catalog, making it easier for students to find and access quality resources while being good stewards of university resources. When users needed a resource outside of Steely's collection, the interlibrary loan service provided access to 901 physical items (books) and 988 scans of articles or book chapters.

Prioritizing Open and Afforadable Student Resources: A main priority of the library throughout 2021 was to facilitate student success by helping alleviate the financial stress of pursuing higher education. Steely Library partnered with NKU campus stakeholders, including UCAP, to build upon the Textbook Affordability Program, first piloted in 2020. Throughout 2021, Steely provided free access to over 68 textbooks, saving 5,246 students more than $490,000 in textbook costs. Additionally, the library led and created a campus-wide team to participate in the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Institute on Open Educational Resources. To support student equity by making education more affordable, the OER team launched a program in spring 2022 to support NKU instructors in adopting, adapting, or creating educational materials to use in their courses.

Cultivating a Sense of Belonging

In addition to reducing financial barriers, Steely focused on designing a welcoming and desirable NKU experience to create a sense of belonging for all students. Library faculty and staff revised services and programming to welcome and engage new and returning students during an unsettling time. By partnering with other offices across campus, the library increased the reach of existing programs and expanded the number of students who could benefit.

Innovative, Student-Focused Library Spaces: The library serves as a scholarly and collaborative hub on the NKU campus, offering study spaces, technology, and access to library expertise. In an effort to cultivate a sense of belonging, Steely continues to seek out ways to meet student needs within the physical building with innovative, student-focused spaces. For example, Steely continued support for the Pathfinders Study Tables program and struck a new partnership with FUEL NKU food pantry, where hungry student users received free snacks during biweekly pop-up events.  

In the fall, Steely launched NKU's first makerspace, Stego Studio, to all currently enrolled NKU students, faculty, and staff. Stego Studio provides high-quality prototyping and fabrication equipment supporting project-based learning and research, including state-of-the-art 3D printers, scanners, computer software, and a laser cutter/engraver. The makerspace continues to offer a pressure-free and fun environment where students can translate abstract concepts into real-world understanding, develop critical thinking skills, and explore creative solutions to real-life problems with hands-on learning. During the fall semester, Stego Studio supported diverse projects ranging from visual aids for public speaking, armatures for stop motion animation, and models of hands for radiology.  

Digitally Showcasing Student Scholarship: Beyond our in-person spaces, Steely Library provided opportunities for students to showcase and preserve their work online. In 2021, Steely added 498 student-authored submissions to NKU's digital repository, which the library manages, hosts, and supports. Special Collections and University Archives also added newly digitized collections and updated finding aids to further future NKU student research.

Formal and Informal Instruction to Support and Enchance Student Learning: Despite challenges placed by the pandemic, Steely Library provided multiple ways of engagement for our students, faculty, and staff to learn and take full advantage of the resources and expertise of our colleagues. Steely librarians provided approximately 1,645 hours of support at our Research Help desk and chat service throughout the year and 228 hours of consultation service. This work on and off the desk allowed students to get the answers they needed and dive deep into library resources through a personalized research consultation.

In the fall, Steely provided 24 library instruction sessions for UNV 101 courses in the fall semester. In addition, EOS collaborated with the UNV 101 coordinator to create a scavenger hunt throughout the building to expose the students to our services, resources, and people. 

Beyond student instruction, our instructional designers in CITE provided consistent and numerous training sessions, workshops, and office hours for instructors to get the support they need to create engaging and impactful courses. Their largest event was the four-day Summer Online Faculty Institute, with 140 attendees growing their skillset to teach online or in-person. This work directly supports student learning by facilitating learning for instructors to create in-person or online classroom environments that take advantage of library tools while ensuring student learning and success. 

Student Opportunities to Engage with Steely: Lastly, Steely believes student success stems from meaningful student opportunities. The library strives to offer impactful ways for students to engage with and shape the work of the library. The library proudly employs 28 student workers who are gaining experience across a variety of departments. The library's student advisory group, the Board of Student Stakeholders (BOSS), culminated its inaugural year by using its $3,000 in library improvement funds to purchase online learning kits consisting of headphones, webcams, and hotspots. The group has convened for its second year and embarked on a new initiative this spring. We also continued our Library Fellowships for Undergraduate Students of Color, a donor-supported program to introduce students of color to careers in librarianship. In spring 2021, our first Fellow compiled an annotated bibliography about Kentucky African American authors, artists, and musicians. In fall 2021, we opened the call for three additional Fellows whose work began this spring. 

The above examples demonstrate the commitment of library personnel to improving affordability, implementing innovations, and cultivating a sense of belonging at NKU. The library team is proud to share these accomplishments with contributions across units and looks forward to building on these examples throughout the remainder of 2022.

In a message to the library, Dean Falcone addressed the number one driver of Steely’s success: the people. "All of you have contributed to the success of Steely Library over the last year, and I want to emphasize that the library's most significant asset is our dedicated personnel," she shared.

Steely is honored to receive the Academic Unit Excellence in Access Award and looks forward to continuing to place students first through access to quality resources, consistent service, meaningful learning opportunities, and safe spaces.