Rebecca Mugridge was named Dean of Libraries in August.
ALBANY, N.Y. — A library is so much more than books. The three-library system at the University at Albany is a place for students to collaborate, study, write and learn computer skills. The library also offers a platform for researchers to publish, and is in the process of developing research data management services.
Of course there are books, too — more than two and a quarter million of them, said Dean of University Libraries Rebecca L. Mugridge. Plus ebooks and ejournals, DVDs, microfilm, special collections and archival materials.
Mugridge, who was appointed dean in August after serving as interim dean and director of the University Libraries since July 2015, heads the system and its staff of more than 100, including 30 librarians. The three libraries — University Library and Science Library on the uptown campus, and the historic Dewey Graduate Library on the downtown campus — offer three distinct settings for research and study. As a member of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the library system ranks among the largest and most comprehensive research libraries in North America.
"When I arrived in Albany, I saw a university library system with immense potential," Mugridge said at her appointment as permanent dean. "I'm grateful and excited to be leading an ARL institution. My vision is to continue the current initiatives undertaken by the University Libraries, while also expanding our reach in the campus community. Collaborative efforts with faculty and students are among my top priorities."
A native of Pittsburgh, Mugridge joined UAlbany in 2013 as associate director for technical services and library systems. Prior to her appointment at the University at Albany, she held positions at academic libraries including Pennsylvania State University, Yale University, Robert Morris University and the University of Pittsburgh.
“My first job in libraries was filing cards in the card catalog at the University of Pittsburgh,” Mugridge said. “Within a year we migrated the entire catalog to an online system.”
Over the past decades libraries have dramatically increased access to online materials and electronic resources. “The ability to access things remotely has revolutionized the way faculty and students do research,” she said.
The University Libraries are supporting that research, both by making materials more available and hosting online scholarly journals. “There are three open access journals in the works right now, and the Libraries are able to host many more journals and other publications.”
The library system also is expanding its research data management services and interactive media department to offer more software tools for students and faculty, Mugridge said. The Libraries already offer classes in software, including Photoshop, Zotero, Movie-Maker, Excel and PowerPoint, and lend out laptops, tablets and software programs.
Completing online skills training can give users micro-credentials or “badges” through an online system that tracks learning milestones. Mugridge said she’s hoping to expand the system to other SUNY schools.
With electronic catalogs, online reservations and ejournals, there’s a lot library users can do from their computers. But “even though a lot of materials are going digital, a lot is still in print,” Mugridge said. “Particularly in the humanities, print remains very important. There’s also a serendipity that browsing books on the shelf allows.”
Mugridge is especially proud of the Student Advisory Board, a group of over a hundred student volunteers that meets and brainstorms ways to make the Libraries even more useful. The students have offered feedback on library hours, collaborative and quiet spaces, the ease of using references services and the comfort of library furniture. And that’s resulted in changes.
“This summer we replaced 600 chairs, and brought in some with rollers, because students wanted to be able to move around more. We added beanbags in the Science Library,” Mugridge said. Library hours have been expanded, and therapy dogs brought in during finals — all a result of student input.
That focus on students goes to the heart of what the library does: supporting learning, scholarship and collaboration, all in an accessible and inviting environment.
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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.