People visited libraries more often than movie theaters, national parks, and live music events, according to a recent GALLUP poll that was published on Jan. 24, 2020.
Adults in the United States reported visiting libraries an average of 10.5 times, while movie visits averaged 5.3 and visits to live sporting events averaged 4.7 times throughout the year.
Why are people returning to the stacks? Are libraries still important in the age of the internet and search engines? Are library community staples?
Kurt Wagner, Head Librarian at the Murry and Leonie Guggenheim Memorial Library had read the new study, and while he recognized that the library and the movies are not always synonymous, he was pleased to see the trend.
“I love libraries so much because there’s all that kind of unexpected knowledge and discovery of things. I say that what we do here is we foster kind of an explore, discover, create…you actually can create knowledge that a place like a library by putting together different information and making connections between things you learn here.”
Wagner encourages students and all individuals to go to librarians and peak to librarians in order to get all the information they are searching for. “If you’re not talking to Librarians and visiting libraries you only get what you look for when you do a search especially a Google Search and you might not even realize that you’re only getting what Google is able to find,” said Wagner.
Because Monmouth has a large commuter population, spaces that foster learning in comfortable environments are important to have around campus. “The library is a great home for someone who doesn’t have another kind of base of operations and even if they do the libraries still a great place to come between classes to come before or after classes to spend time,” Wagner said.
“That’s also what education is about, what we do here at the University too. We help our students make those kind of aha moments where they discover things,” said Wagner.
Walter Greason, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Counseling and Leadership, acknowledged that library attendance has increased over the last eight years, but that faculty members should continue to encourage visitation among students.
“When the Mellon Foundation funded my work on supervising undergraduate research, it was innovative. Now, these kinds of instructional techniques are becoming the standard. The more we incorporate the library into our classes, the higher the quality of a Monmouth University education,” said Greason.
The information in libraries is not only being used by students, but by professors, to continue their scholarship. “I’ve used the Monmouth University library for my research for almost 25 years,” said Greason. “More importantly, my students have produced outstanding research based on their collections, in almost every major, since 2013. Anyone who doesn’t use the library – students or faculty – places themselves at a huge professional disadvantage,” continued Greason.
Dena Massa, a library technician, has been working at Monmouth for 17 years and has seen many familiar faces visiting the library over the years, whether they are faculty members doing research or simply people from the community. “There are some people who come to the library and are here religiously,” said Massa. “Some are doctors or lawyers who are studying to pass their exam.”
And while the puppies during de-stress each semester is the biggest draw for bringing students to the library, Massa is glad to see that visitation has remained consistent over the years.
Wagner wants students and community members alike to come to the library, relax, have a coffee, and hopefully discover something they did not know existed. In order to bring in more individuals, the library has hosted various programs over the past few months. Groups of students came during their classes to read excerpts from Emily Dickinson’s writings to library goers. A performer, starring as Emily Dickinson in the Belle of Amherst at the Two River Theater practiced her lines reading to those who gathered.
“In the fall we had an afro-futurist exhibit throughout the library of all these afro-futurist it’s kind of where black history, gender, and ethnicity in anthropology, and cultural kind of combined together to form this wonderful way of looking at a potential future of art and literature and in history,” Wagner said.
On another occasion, 30 plus faculty members gathered in the library to discuss Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
In honor of Black History Month, the English department will be hosting a Toni Morrison day on Feb. 18. Members of the Honors School will participate in reading Morrison’s novel, Sula. The event is open to the public.
For more information on events happening at the Murry and Leonie Guggenheim Memorial Library follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at monmouthlibrary.
PHOTO TAKEN by Caroline Mattise