Libraries Abroad: A Visit to FSU London

Lindsey at the Painted Hall

I hadn’t visited FSU London or any of our FSU Libraries international study centers since the pandemic. I anticipated changes, similar to those we experienced on our campus in Tallahassee. I arrived in the city after a sleepless red-eye. It was a beautiful, cool Sunday morning, and London didn’t seem much changed at all, to my great relief. The study center sits on picturesque Great Russell Street in the heart of the Bloomsbury district, a row of interconnected buildings that comprise the student flats, classrooms, offices, community spaces, and library that make up FSU London. Built in the 17th century, it’s impossible to overlook the history within the space, especially as I carried my overpacked suitcase up the four flights of steep wooden stairs to my flat. I spent my first day visiting the National Gallery, enjoying the sights of the South Bank, and preparing for my week to come, enchanted already by my admittedly favorite city. 

Monday morning began with a happy reunion with FSU London Director, Kathleen Paul; Senior Associate Director, Lisa Bowers-Isaacson; the London Library team, Eddie Cheung & Chiedu Osedumme; as well as the FSU Florence Librarian, Kate Dowling. The focus of our initial meeting was setting goals for the week and how we could best use our time in London to promote library services and resources to the students, faculty, and staff while identifying opportunities for library support and creating connections that come from spending time in-person, embedded in the study abroad experience. The London study body is primarily First Year Abroad & First Semester Abroad students in the broad curriculum program. There is also a significant population of Theater Academy London students, providing an in-depth and vibrant experience for theater students. The study center also serves many other universities and academic institutions, serving as home for the study abroad experience for diverse students. 

FSU London Study Center

On Monday and Tuesday, we held faculty lunch meetings where I opened with a presentation on library support for teaching, learning, and research and Kate followed-up with a discussion on AI and its effects on higher education. It was great to provide updates on the work we’ve been doing in the libraries, from our redesigned website to our new OpenAthens authentication process to our growing collections and research support services. I’ve worked with many of these faculty for years, and being able to find ways to support their goals in developing robust learning experiences utilizing both the city of London as well as library resources to provide context and background is incredibly rewarding as a librarian. 

It was easy for me to feel like part of the team in London, where a small, dedicated group of people work together to craft a truly unique educational experience. I attended the all staff weekly meeting where they discussed upcoming cultural excursions, group dinners, and programming for the students. I spent one morning with the student affairs team, whose span of work and care of the students really solidifies all the other working pieces. As we enjoyed tea and pastries or chatted over dinner, I was struck by what a special group of people have made this program such a success for our university.

One of the most gratifying aspects of my trip was my time with the library employees who work abroad, as it was the first time I was able to work with Eddie, Chiedu, and Kate throughout the week to discuss integrating the library into the program, managing their library spaces and collections, and providing research and reference support. The library space is bright and efficient with quiet study spaces. It houses a program-and location-specific collection of books and media items with additional circulating items of technology and course reserves. Both Eddie and Chiedu manage not only the library space and collection, but also coordinate the IT services for the study center. One of the goals for my time at the study center was offering support and guidance, working through problems and questions, and solidifying our joint efforts to provide a fulfilling library experience. 

Lindsey & Kate Present “Research Ready” to FYA/FSA Students

Engaging with the London students was another highlight of my trip. Kate and I collaborated on presentations and instruction sessions to introduce the students to our online library services and resources as vast electronic collections of eBooks, articles, databases, streaming video, and more that are available anytime, anywhere through our library website. We infused our sessions with tenets of critical thinking, information literacy, and valuable applications for evaluating sources. These sessions are crucial in helping students navigate the library website, knowing how to get help, and thinking about research and information critically and contextually. I was also able to spend time with the students during a cultural excursion to Greenwich, one of many planned trips as part of the study abroad experience. I straddled the Prime Meridian Line and visited the exquisite Painted Hall while chatting with students on the tube about their classes and research . 

Eddie organized a lunch with the library student workers where we discussed our libraries, librarianship, and their goals in the program. It was a great way to learn more about the student worker experience, as I cannot emphasize enough how vital these staff members are to all of our libraries. We couldn’t do any of this without them. 

Themes from our time in London included artificial intelligence and the opportunities and challenges for teaching and learning; standardizing the library experience for all students studying abroad and how we can provide the relevant information at the right time; how the library can support course materials as well as open educational resource efforts; and the ongoing importance of communication and collaboration to achieve our aligned goals. So many people are to thank for this experience but I would be remiss not to mention the amazing Dr. Kathleen Paul, Dr. Lisa Bowers-Isaacson and her wonderful history lessons, Eddie Cheung for all his work in planning our itinerary, Chiedu Osedumme, and my partner in all this work, Kate Dowling. Another special thank you to my leadership at the Libraries and my partners at International Programs. The visits to our international campuses are special to me for many reasons, but what stands out is seeing how our work in the Libraries extends beyond our borders and bolsters learning experiences in exciting and meaningful ways. 

By: Lindsey Wharton, Extended Campus & Distance Services Librarian

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