Made possible with funds provided by Columbia Basin Trust through its ongoing support of enhancing student experience, the new $100,000 computer lab has added more work stations, the latest computer technology and a learning space that places emphasis on the role libraries play in higher education. With a focus on access for all students, the resource opened at the beginning of the semester and usage has been brisk.
“It was long overdue for a refresh and I am very pleased with the result,” says Selkirk College’s head librarian Gregg Currie. “Teaching students information literacy and how to evaluate resources is an important part of our role at the college. This is a great space for us to do that in, you want to bring learners up to the library to do that because it’s all right here.”
Selkirk College librarians Gregg Currie (left) and Sarah James (right) have been welcoming students to dive deeper into their studies in the new computer lab on the Castlegar Campus. Made possible through funding from Columbia Basin Trust, the lab provides both an important service and an opportunity to teach students the importance of information literacy.
Accurate and reliable information has been the focus of Currie’s career for almost three decades. Raised in rural Alberta, he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1999 and immediately went to work for the New York Public Library in a small branch in South Bronx. He spent nine years in New York City—also working for the libraries at Pratt Institute and Fordham University—before returning to Canada to work at Selkirk College in 2008.
When Currie began his career, it was at a time when the shift to digital information was gaining momentum. Academic journals moved to online formats, encyclopedias gave way to Wikipedia, and the use of print books declined. Since he arrived to Selkirk College, Currie has worked with library staff at the Castlegar Campus to expand the digital collection from a few thousand e-journals and handful of e-books, to providing access to over 45,000 e-journals and nearly 250,000 e-books, while weeding out 35,000 outdated volumes from the general collection, government documents, bound periodicals and encyclopedias.
Staying On Par with Larger Institutions
Though much has changed, Currie emphasizes that the cull of print materials and conversion to digital delivery has not diminished the importance of the tangible library as a resource for learning.
“We now live in an era where there is a deluge of information, but libraries are still very important for quality information,” says Currie, who still keeps a 1911 set of Encyclopedia Britannica on the Castlegar Library shelves for nostalgia. “There is lots of dubious information out there and bad information tends to spread faster. The challenge now is to get students to read critically and analyze what they are reading.”
Research has shown that post-secondary students tend to do surface-level Google searches and rarely get past the first page of their quest for information. Through services like the new computer lab at the Castlegar Campus and ongoing library education sessions, students who want to put in the work will get rewarded.
“There is a lot of information here and the advantage of using library resources is that it’s vetted with university press books and academic peer-reviewed journals,” says Currie. “The quality of information you can get through the library is going to be several steps up on your Google search.”
The brilliance of today’s technology for a rural post-secondary is that Selkirk College is not limited to the physical collection. The Castlegar Campus Library has 50,000 print books in its collection, but more than 250,000 e-books that are available to students. The quality and quantity of information both in-print and digitally puts learners on an equal playing field as their peers at larger institutions.
With the expanded and modernized computer lab, the Castlegar Campus Library now has a total of 28 computers available for use.
“It’s a nice space to work in and we are always here to help,” says Currie. “There is a need for good information literacy instruction and that has become a major part of library services today. We teach students how to research and how to evaluate resources.”
The Castlegar Campus Library is open daily except on Sundays. Check out the library’s website for hours here.