In Fall of 2021, while taking IST 613, Brooke Vitagliano proposed a project to bring awareness to the recreational resources available at public libraries. At the time, the idea and the project documents that came of it were just an assignment required for the class. Today, it is an actual guide on the Syracuse University Libraries website. 

In IST 613 every student is required to partner with a librarian and a library to propose a project, identifying a need that isn’t being met by the library in the community they choose, and then detailing how one could go about solving that problem. It is up to the student to decide between an academic or a public library, as both libraries serve different purposes.What makes Brooke’s project unique is that they actually saw their proposed project be brought to life through collaboration with SU Library Staff. 

Prior to fall 2021, John Stawarz, an Online Learning Librarian at SU, was teaching the IST 613 class to graduate students in the Library and Information program in the iSchool. However, last fall, he decided to become a partner librarian. He spent the semester closely working with Brooke to develop their project. Both John and Brooke were able to contribute to the success of the project because of their extensive backgrounds in academic and public libraries respectively.  

Together, they saw the strengths in academic libraries having endless databases and journal articles. Yet, they found that academic libraries lacked the “fun stuff”. Coming out of the pandemic, they saw a rise in popularity for popular fiction and nonfiction, as well as people looking for an outlet to help with the stress and anxiety associated with disruptions caused by the pandemic. This is where academic libraries faltered. Whereas academic libraries provide important resources used for academic and professional endeavors, public libraries provide the resources for fun and relaxation. 

Public libraries typically contain more recreational resources than academic libraries. For example, with a membership, a public library patron could have access to a number of popular and highly sought out audiobooks and ebooks. These resources are free with a membership and can be accessed immediately on multiple devices. Many academic libraries don’t have the budget or space to hold the current bestsellers or distribute them electronically. 

The goal was to inform SU students of the number of resources available at local public libraries. To do this, Brooke and John used the already existing project plan and brought on Natalie LoRusso, a User Experience Librarian at SU, to create the Public Libraries Guide. They contacted county public library officials and worked with the communications team of the Syracuse Library and within six months the guide was published.

“It’s a great example of collaboration not just with university libraries and public libraries but also the iSchool as well”, John shared.

The Public Libraries Guide is an introduction to just some of the many resources available at public libraries. It provides information on the benefits and the steps to take to join a public library. There are links to the websites of the Onondaga County Public Libraries and the New York Public Library, accessible to students living in or around Syracuse. For those not in New York, there is a link to a public library finder.