NATCHITOCHES – Students at Northwestern State University are reviving its chapter of Alpha Beta Alpha, a national library science society that was established at NSU in 1950 by Eugene P. Watson for whom the university library is named.
As of this semester, Alpha Chapter of Alpha Beta Alpha is a registered student organization (RSO) and organizers are discussing ideas about the modern library’s role in information literacy. New members have met to brainstorm ways they can educate their peers about resources at the library, combat library phobia and engage in relevant service projects.
Alpha Beta Alpha was the first co-educational library science fraternity created in the United States with the mission of supporting undergraduates majoring in library science. In 1952 the first Alpha Beta Alpha national convention was held at Northwestern State and the organization grew to 29 chapters throughout the U.S. through the 1970s. The only other active chapter remaining is Rho Chapter at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.
“The purpose of Alpha Beta Alpha is to spread information about library science in general and act as a sort of library club,” said Jean McQuilling of Berwick, acting president. McQuilling, a student worker at the library, wanted to start an organization and discovered the fraternity’s history. “I reached out to the other chapter remaining open and decided, with the help of our advisor, to revive the club.”
Caitlin Griffin of Denham Springs is acting vice president and sponsors are Debbie Huntington, head of Collection Development and Catalogues; Dr. Patricia Brown, Information Literacy Instruction Librarian; and Anna MacDonald, librarian at NSU’s Leesville branch.
Although the digital age has transformed how information is accessed, the mission of the modern library remains as a resource to enhance learning and ensure access to information to all, according to the American Library Association. Modern libraries are part of a complex informational infrastructure that have flexible spaces and furniture for individual or group study, lots of charging stations for personal electronic devices and programming relevant to users.
One new concept in library science is that of a human library collection, one that replaces books with people to discuss current issues or concerns. Library users can “check out” an individual for a specified time and have a conversation on that person’s experience with specific topics. For example, a history student could have a one-on-one conversation with a war veteran or a psychology student with someone affected by autism.
A concern for the librarians at Watson is that although students are proficient in utilizing computers for recreational use, they may not know how to access appropriate information for academic research or who to ask for help. Alpha Beta Alpha members hope to bridge that gap and break down silos between departments on campus.
“We are redirecting the library to concentrate on the world we live in today,” Huntington said.
Eugene P. Watson, Alpha Beta Alpha founder, was head librarian and professor of library science at Northwestern State from 1940 until his death in 1964. A Natchitoches native, he sought to gain a greater academic recognition of librarians. The Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library is located at 913 University Parkway, Natchitoches, and is home to the Academic Success Center, University Archives, the Cammie G. Henry Research Center and Café DeMon.
Online registration forms are available for faculty who want to bring classes to the library for research instruction (https://goo.gl/forms/p1aAUU5hEuB5GdMj2) and students who would like one-on-one assistance (https://goo.gl/forms/AawbsYXSfTXzQkH42). Tutorials for basic instruction are available at http://libguides.nsula.edu/learningthelibrary/home.
Hours and other general information on NSU Libraries is available at library.nsula.edu.