KSL evolves to accommodate the increase in undergraduate enrollment, with improved technology and program needs

Students building a puzzle in the zen zone

Since Kelvin Smith Library opened its doors in 1996, the Case Western Reserve University’s undergraduate population has grown by 79.5% and technology used for information gathering and sharing has evolved to include artificial intelligence and digital scholarship. Along with adopting new technology, library staff have strategically added services, resources and creative new uses of space to maintain a learning environment that inspires discovery, advances research and provides opportunities for the community to better understand the world around them.

Outreach and Instruction

To support the growing needs of the university community, librarians specializing in instruction and the user experience have joined the team to expand offerings including two for-credit courses available spring semester 2024. 

  • “Navigating the Information Landscape: Misinformation on Social Media” meets the university seminar requirements and can be included in the SAGES writing portfolio (for students who are in their second year or longer). The class covers the fundamentals of information literacy—including how to read critically, evaluate resources, identify bias and understand how context can influence the accuracy of information.
  • “Research & Writing for a Digital Public” will help students develop research and writing skills necessary to efficiently and effectively evaluate, use and contribute information in the digital landscape.

“The goal is to provide a thorough understanding and tools to evaluate and manage resources and information in a digital world no matter your field of study, “ said Yolanda Cooper, vice provost and the Lindseth Family University Librarian. “From music to biochemistry, nursing to accounting, all students will benefit from these classes.”

Outreach and Instruction Librarian Erin Smith says it’s important to make sure incoming students know what library resources are available, and how to use them.

“Undergraduate and graduate students arrive with a variety of scholarly backgrounds and learning styles, and placing them on an equitable playing field to understand how to utilize library and other campus resources is critical,” said Smith. “Determining the kinds of programming and educational offerings that will best help campus community members realize their potential while figuring out how to best deliver that material is what I love most about my current role.” 

Library visits increase

line graph of building entry data

Data shows the Case Western Reserve community is using KSL services and spaces more than ever. A year-over-year comparison of library key card entry swipes shows that during peak months of the 2022–23 school year, on average, 11,708 more people entered the library than during the same period in the 2021–22 school year.

Josie Cotton’s role as User Experience Librarian at KSL was necessary based on this data.  Cotton—a library assistant for three years, stepped into the new role and is excited to see increased traffic in the library. “It's really wonderful to see so many people using the library, both in just walking around the building and in the data,” said Cotton.

Rethinking spaces

During summer 2023, KSL added dozens of new seating options, including four adjustable booths that allow a variety of seating positions.

“All of our physical seating and space changes are student-centered and based on their feedback,” said Cooper. “We’ve created areas for collaboration and spaces for those seeking solitude. This is all part of our initiative to build a more inclusive environment.”

Those looking for privacy will find five individual study/office spaces on the third floor. These reservable rooms are equipped with a desk, chair and power outlet.

The first floor Freedman Collaboration Commons now includes a reservable video conferencing room featuring a desk, chair, power outlet and whiteboard. It provides a professional space for conducting meetings, interviews or collaborating with colleagues.

Also located on the first floor near Cramelot Cafe and the Cleveland Public Library Leisure Collection is the new Zen Zone. Its design allows students to reinvigorate their minds and bodies through chair stretching, coloring pages, puzzles, games, gratitude journaling and take-what-you-need encouragement cards.

More than books

Librarians secured new, high-quality content over the summer, strategically taking advantage of publisher and vendor discounts.

“We have been very intentional in how we spend funding received from university administration,” said Cooper. “We gathered feedback from faculty, staff and students to identify unmet needs in the collection to reach the widest audience in our community.”

Cooper says one of the most impactful purchases is the Taylor & Francis all journals package that provides access to over 2,000 new journal titles.

Engaging programs, events and exhibits

Kelvin Smith Library is now part of the Explore Program—a component of the university’s new Unified General Education Requirement (UGER)— which aims to help students identify and access campus resources and opportunities that can contribute to their learning within and beyond the classroom. First-year students are required to attend various events organized by academic departments, student support offices, student activities and cultural institutions. 

As a result of this partnership, the library has seen consistent student attendance at events that provide supplemental skill-building opportunities, which inspire students to explore its many offerings. 

The newly added Early Career Research, Visibility and Publishing Series is open to all graduate, PhD students and postdocs and provides insights into successfully navigating the publication process. 

“This series will help researchers build their own scholarly brand,” said Daniela Solomon, research and engagement librarian. “We’ve curated experts and guest speakers to teach best practices for planning research, finding and managing resources, learning how to use digital tools for analysis, leveraging author rights and understanding the benefits of open science.“ 

The new Digital Scholarship Workshop Series introduces participants to the methods and tools of digital scholarship, exploring mapping, data visualization, text analysis, data management and more using popular, well-supported research software platforms such as R, Python and ArcGIS.

Well-liked library cultural programs and exhibits as well as popular trivia nights and therapy dog sessions round out the library’s event offerings.

 View a full schedule of KSL programming.