A trip to New Kensington
This week seems to surging forward with no signs of slowing down. I should have known it was going to be a week when I walked into work on Sunday: databases down, printer making printing sounds but turning out “invisible” pages, and two drop in reference conversations. Throw in a few rounds to check in on our student staff and BAM, it’s 10 PM.
Another factor in this week’s agenda was my road trip today. I got to travel to one of Penn State’s campus locations to see my library mentor. In the grand Penn State system, we are “one campus, geographically dispersed.” That means there ware 23 other smaller Penn States, each with their own Nittany Lion shrine!
My destination today was the New Kensington campus, located just outside of Pittsburgh. In classic Pennsylvania fashion, my drive to Upper Burrell consisted of hills, windy roads, changing speed limits, and the ever-constant question, “Am I there yet?” Finally, the campus rose above the hill and I breathed a sigh of relief. I had made it.
Now, New Kensington has about 700 students and is not a residential campus. They have both two year and four year degrees. Sometimes When I pulled onto campus, it was weird to see such ample parking available and building that were all connected. A little different than my normal commute to the Pattee & Paterno Libraries!
The Elisabeth S. Blissell Library shares building space with the main computer lab on campus. It’s got a homey feel when you walk in, with some popular magazines to catch your eye. The space opens up with a variety of study spaces, a small computer lab that can double as an instruction classroom when needed, an impressive array of DVDs, a physical collection, and a few carrels for individual study.
After a tour of the library and some other buildings on campus, my mentor and I went out to lunch. I experienced “Wedding Soup” for the first time and man, I’m a fan. They had me at tiny meatballs. It was good to chat with my mentor in person, exchange stories, and ask questions about being a librarian.
We returned to campus and headed to New Kensington’s Undergraduate Research Fair. There were 48 posters with a small sampling of them coming from a Psychology research methods class. My mentor knew a good chunk of the students, so I enjoyed walking around with her, listening to the students tell us about their projects, and learning something new. I also got to meet most of the library’s student employees, which was a favorite part of the trip for me. I was impressed with the number of projects completed by students who had a passion for something and turned it into a project. Not for a class or a grade, just because they could. Additionally, I was impressed with the students in the psychology class who were very comfortable admitting their hypothesis was wrong and offering potential solutions for a study in the future. It was clear to see the tight knit community of New Kensington and how the librarians there are an integral and active part of the group.
With my head full of new facts, I left the Blissell Library to head back to State College. I got a little turn around on the way home, but my navigation skills paid off (roads eventually run into each other, right!?!). However, before I left, I did manage to snag one picture of me with the New Kensington Nittany Lion.
In my time at Penn State so far, it’s really hard not to become totally University Park (UP) centric. My primary student demographic is residential students that are at UP and while I assist students from our campuses or our World Campus, it’s all done online. After attending the TLT Symposium, which brought in speakers from other campuses, I realized that while my priority is UP students, I needed to explore what it means to be a student at a campus or a librarian at a campus library. This trip to New Kensington couldn’t be more perfectly timed (especially since I got to see the research fair). I’m happy I got the opportunity to travel and happy that my mentor was willing to share a day in the life at the Blissell Library. It has given me a lot to think about and continues to help me situate myself in the larger Penn State Libraries picture.