What do you get when you mix one Southerner, two Midwesterners, and three New Englanders? A small-but-mighty library staff with a whole lotta love for our patrons. Western New England University School of Law Library consists of four librarians, two support staff, and the best student employees money can hire. We are located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the birthplace of basketball and Dr. Suess.
Nicole Belbin, Associate Dean for Library and Information Resources, has worked in various positions in the library since 2005 and was hired as the director this year. Her team includes Kathy Layer, User Experience Librarian (joined our staff in 2015); Diane Swanson, Circulation/Serials Specialist (2019); Christopher Collins, Research and Emerging Technologies Librarian, and Susan Wells, Temporary Librarian (2021); and our most recent addition, Jasmin Thornton, Circulation Assistant (February 2022).
We are extremely proud of how creative we are at meeting our patrons’ needs. Our can-do attitudes really paid off during the early days of COVID when the building was closed to everyone except for patrons studying for the bar exam. We developed a contactless curbside pick-up option utilizing our patio as the drop-off and pick-up location to get materials to our patrons and added extensively to our digital content.
We spent last summer repurposing spaces and making room for three new areas of the library: the Nourishment Nook, the Center for Academic and Bar Excellence, and an expanded Self-help Center. These new areas help us better meet our primary mission of supporting and enhancing the research and educational endeavors of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as assisting other individuals in finding needed legal information.
The Nourishment Nook is still under construction, but when complete it will have a prayer room, a lactation space (with a changing table), a meditation area, and a satellite location for WNEU’s Bear Necessities Market. The Market provides free supplies, such as food and personal hygiene items, to students with food insecurities.
The Center for Academic and Bar Excellence is a collaboration with the Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Success to provide dedicated space for peer-to-peer tutoring and workshops.
We added to our Nolo collection and similar publications to expand our existing Self-help Center to support a partnership with the Center for Social Justice on their Legal Technology Kiosk initiative, where we served as the first site.
The last big change we made to our library space was purchasing five Pillar Booths for students to use for individual study spaces, Zoom meetings and interviews, and online classes.
We are excited to kick off the second year of our Intro to Law program, an outreach program where we partner with our Admissions department and the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School.
When we are not busy assisting patrons, we enjoy going to the beach, hitting the slopes, singing in a choir, watching IndyCar races, baking, tackling DIY home improvements, conducting genealogy research, or spending time with our families, which include toddlers, teenagers, grandkids, cats, dogs, fish, and a bird.