Brenda Mahoney, Algonquin librarian, coordinates projects and activities, manages the library consortiums and plays an instructional role at the college. She plays a key role for both students and faculty.

By Matthew Houston

Algonquin’s library is the backbone to many programs, and for some it is the only way they can exist. That’s the view of  Brenda Mahoney, one of Woodroffe campus’ two librarians.

The nursing program and construction engineering technician program are among those that rely on the library’s databases.

This time of year, Mahoney is supposed to be comparing  database  usage over the past  year to see which  ones are  used  by   students and faculty and which she needs to cancel.

But faculty requests for her to instruct classes on how to properly use  library resources and find  legitimate sources for their research  has taken up too much time.

“If it means the teachers think the library is important and they need the instruction early, that makes me very happy,” she said.

Awareness of the services is key.

“I’ve had students tell me they didn’t even know we had a library. Sometimes I have faculty asking us to get databases that we already have,” she said.

With the rise of degree programs and more research directed programs at Algonquin, the library has been undergoing a change in the materials they collect.

“Before our collections were very practical, the material was newer rather than historical. Now with post-diploma courses and longer duration programs those students  do  need to look at things in  a  historical context,” Mahoney said.

To acquire these collections the library has formed a consortium  with eight other libraries, both academic and public, called  Sm@rt  Library. Now, students can borrow  from   other  libraries  directly  without  having  to wait three  days for  an  inter-library loan, as  long  as they get a card  from  Algonquin. This  is  one  of  the  ways  Algonquin  is trying  to  make  accurate  information more easily accessible; and students need the help. Project Information Literacy, a study  which focuses on the challenges young adults face  when conducting college level research, found that when faced with a research  project students felt worry, anxiety  and  stress.

“Students thought that everything could be found online and they knew how to do  it,  but  they  didn’t, ”  said Helena  Merriam,  coordinator of  the   library  and information technician  program at Algonquin.

One  of  her program’s main focuses is teaching information literacy, which involves the ability to both find and filter information to get the best data and sources.

As information becomes more easily available, the vast quantities can be too much for students to sift through. To help,  the  library  has been developing tools  to  make  the library   system  more intuitive  to  use.

Lib Guides allows students to  have a library  page  dedicated  to  their subject,  while  One Search allows students  to  search  almost  all the  databases  at once. One Search conducted over 9.5 million searches last year.

Apart from the school library, public libraries offer useful services as well.

“Libraries are more than just books,” said Shannon Scharf-Parij, a  library  and information technician student. To her, public libraries are more like community centres, and a stomping ground for new Canadians. They offer free  language classes, help  with  job  searches,  and can       also   help   you   form   a   business plan for a new company.

Rebecca Leclair, another student  of the program, did her  placement with the  Ottawa   Public  Library’s Homebound  Services,  which delivers  books to  disabled  and elderly  individuals  who  can’t  get to the library’s  themselves. She said  that most  people  in  the library  system  love   to  learn,  and   most  of  all  enjoy  seeing  others being   curious  and   seeking  out  new  information.