Callan Bignoli was hired as Olin’s Library Director at the end of July 2019. Since she has started she has been aiming to improve the library with student input. The library has been drastically updated because of the efforts of the library under the direction of Callan. Because of the vast changes, I sat down with her for an interview.
Callan collected student feedback by conducting focus groups in the fall and surveys both in the fall and spring. She conducted another survey with alums of 2019. To accommodate how busy staff can be, she did several one-on-one meetings with them instead of focus groups.
To do these surveys, Rebecca Matthews, Institute Research at Olin, was happy to help her make her survey and put them on Qualtrics. Rebecca also helped her organize the results and make reports of how people responded.
Additionally, Callan did an internal survey with the other librarians of 4-5 open ended questions related to what to prioritize and which of these results they were surprised by.
From the data Callan had collected, she made a 9 page proposal called the Strategic Plan, which outlines the steps she plans to take to respond to the feedback she collected. It proposes a three-year plan that covers from this semester to Spring 2022
Callan says she was overwhelmed when she got here because she didn’t know how to do what the community wanted. But she was invested in asking what people wanted instead of just moving forward based on her preconceived notions from working at a different library. There were pretty significant changes that needed to be made, but she didn’t have an idea of where to start.
Callan really emphasized that although she could’ve guessed which actions to take first based on previous experience, it would have been dishonest and self serving.
The Action Plan has two parts. One that focuses on the first year and one that is more long term.
Within the first year, Callan has already started to move books around and will be getting new furniture for the bottom of the library. As mentioned in the email she sent out about book movements, the fiction books are now upstairs, the art books downstairs, and some books removed completely.
The longer term plan is to replace the rest of the furniture and to recarpet but that will depend on her budget being approved. Since presentations and some classes are held in the library, Callan is looking to make the seating more functional to support these activities.
Part of her desire is that the library is one of the first parts that visitors and guests see.
Callan has also put a lot of thought into the bookshelves. The bookshelves upstairs were becoming unstable and from holding at least 700 pounds of art books with heavy paper. Some students had been injured by the shelves making them no longer safe to be moved around as intended.
To combat this, books that hadn’t been checked out in 3 or more years were donated. The textbooks that were now out of date were harder to rehome so they were given to the artists in residence. Those heavy books were also moved downstairs to the static shelves and the lighter fiction books were brought up. Additionally she placed extraneous materials like CDs and some books on carts which the community was allowed to take for free.
The biggest change to the library will actually be to the software. Callan was able to add us to the Minuteman Library system, and with that comes many perks. For example, the library software will be more stable and allow you to see what you’ve checked out, renew your own books, and do Inter Library Loans by yourself. People would also be able to check out books from the libraries in the system which contain 17 very rich libraries such as Needham and Wellesley Public Library. We will switch over on July 1st of 2020. When students come back in the fall, there will be an orientation that will help us explore the mobile app and give us access to a barcode sticker that will replace the “type-in-your-name” system we currently have.
The Minuteman Library system also includes local tech support that will be able to help the library as it needs without hiring additional people. Without the student workers a lot of the changes would not have been possible. They helped box outgoing books and worked with Callan quite a bit. With all the equipment the library has, like the cameras, screen printer, and sewing machines, without the student workers, it would be nearly impossible to upkeep the equipment and run trainings.
Callan has enjoyed that people are always willing and wanting to step in to help. Whether it’s idea generation, getting help making surveys, coding data, or even spray painting shelves, people have been excited to take part in improving the library.
The interview I had with Callan really showed me how willing she is to work with the community. She was excited to schedule time to talk to me and was open to answer my questions. I’m hopeful of how the library will change for the better in the next few years, and I’m happy to share that Callan cares about the Olin community and has already done so many things for us.