By Haley Hadge
The University is searching for a new dean of the Henry Whittemore Library.
The search committee held an open forum for candidate Anna Sarneso in the McCarthy Center’s Alumni Room and by Zoom on Feb. 15.
Sarneso earned a bachelor of arts degree, master of arts in English literature, and master of science in library and information science. She is working toward her Ph.D. in library and information science.
She has been the library director at Lasell University’s Brennan Library for the past three years.
Her focus at Lasell has been to develop Open Educational Resources (OERs) to “restructure” their departments and “increase” faculty engagement with their librarians, she said.
She added her goal is to “develop cross-campus collaborations.”
Sarneso said she is “heavily involved” in the MLN network and serves as a member of its board of directors.
“The Henry Whittemore Library is part of the Minuteman Library Network (MLN) – which is a consortium of 42 libraries with 60 locations serving the communities of MetroWest Massachusetts,” according to the MLN’s website.
When asked what she would do to contribute to the University’s commitment to anti-racism, Sarneso said, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) should be at the forefront of librarianship.”
She said when the librarians are building their collections, they need to be actively thinking about how they can build an “equitable collection” that reflects the student body population.
“Are we making sure that our books by authors of color are in every subject matter, and that we have those diverse voices across every department?” she asked.
Colleen Previte, special collections librarian and archivist, asked Sarneso what role she sees the University’s archives and history playing, and how she would support them.
Sarneso said, “In order for a university to be able to make strategic decisions moving forward, it needs to have a really clear sense of its past.”
She added having this knowledge accessible to the community instills “pride to be able to look back at how far their university has come.”
A “robust” archive fosters outreach opportunities, she said. It allows the library to “meet people where they are.”
She said the archives “Special Collections” are the “jewel” of any collection, and “a lot of work goes into keeping them accessible and usable.”
She added proper signage indicating where the restrooms are located, where charging outlets are, and what can be checked out at the front desk are simple and effective ways to decrease stress and increase usability for these patrons.
Halcyon Mancuso, founder/executive director of the Mancuso Humanities Workforce Preparation Center, asked Sarneso what she has done to increase library use among faculty and students.
Regarding faculty, Sarneso said she “meets them where they are” and builds a rapport with them.
She said this familiarity helps faculty feel more comfortable conducting research in the library.
She added OERs are also a great “outreach tool” that equips professors with easier access to knowledge for their students.
“With students, I think we always need to think about their point of view,” she said.
Sarneso said she created a position for “user experience.” This librarian conducts “usability studies” on their website and tracks students while they are completing tasks.
She said they are “tracking their eye movements [and] their mouse movements.” This study showed that databases they assumed were easy to use were “actually quite limited.”
Sarneso said with this new information, her department was able to make the changes needed to increase usability and improve student education.
Mancuso also asked how Sarneso would prioritize library initiatives during “declining enrollment and financial pressure.”
Sarneso said the library initiatives could be part of the solution.
“The library can see where different departments across campus have similar, but not exactly the same resource needs,” she said. As librarians, “We merge those together to best fit into some common ground.”
The library can fulfill the needs of two departments for the price of one, she said.
Joseph Adelman, professor of history, asked how she would navigate operating under the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic while planning for a new normal.
Sarneso said she has made sure her staff is able to balance their work and home lives with vacation time as well as reassurance that when they go home, they can “really go home.
“A lot of times, I think people can really feel like if they have a specialty, they shouldn’t leave because we want to serve a patron’s need the moment it is expressed,” she said.
Team communication, collaboration, and task prioritization allow for this flexibility, she added.
When asked about the role of the library in providing information literacy, she said it is “one of the most important things that a library staff can do to help students grow in their time at a university.”
Marc Cote, dean of arts and humanities, asked, “What do you feel the role of a university library is in the city community?”
Sarneso said since Whittemore is a Minuteman Library, “the greater Minuteman community should feel welcome.”
She added while the primary audience of students and faculty should be prioritized, the outside community should also be considered.
When asked why she wants to come to FSU, Sarneso said, “It’s really hard” to see so many students unable to continue their education at the private institution she is currently working at due to inflexibility in tuition cost during the pandemic.
She said she had to ask herself, “Should I be encouraging you [students] to stay here if you don’t have the money to do so?”
She said, “It’s so important” that Framingham State has frozen their tuition for the next year, and she wants to “move back into the public university sector” because of the greater flexibility to aid students in tuition costs.