Donors help students navigate world of information

Monday, October 11, 2004

Jill Rudnitski

Jill Rudnitski, Vice President of University Advancement

When I was a graduate student in the information media program at SCSU, the debate was whether information in electronic databases would ever become directly accessible to the public. Would librarians always be needed to help us find information? Would books disappear entirely, replaced by computers? Would libraries become unnecessary?

I’m dating myself, of course. Students now “Google™” throughout college, using internet connections in their dorm rooms or homes. And yet, the James W. Miller Learning Resources Center is one of the most vital places on campus.

Recent gifts to the Miller Center highlight the diversity of resources found there. Dr. Joan Blaska built a personal collection of children’s books during a 17-year career as a faculty member at SCSU. When she retired in 2001, she donated almost 300 books to the Miller Center. The books, written for children from preschool through third grade, help them understand the diversity of human abilities and overcoming disabilities. The Joan Blaska Book Fund through the SCSU Foundation helps purchase new books for the collection.

The family of William M. Lindgren donated parts of his extensive Asian art collection to the Miller Center. A student researcher built her master’s thesis around this mysterious man, who collected art in unusual places at critical times during the Cold War. The William Lindgren Asian Art Collection Fund allows restoration of fragile pieces and the purchase of related items.

The collections make these pieces accessible for study and help researchers find order in impossibly-large data banks. By comparison, a Google search on these two topics is revealing: for “disabilities” it produces more than 4 million hits; a search for “Asian art” produces more than 3 million hits.

Librarians will always be needed. Kudos go to Joan Blaska and the family of Bill Lindgren for making these unique gifts to our collection, and to Dennis Fields and the family of Doreen Keable for establishing endowed scholarships for information media students. Their contributions have a common thread – providing resources and expertise to help students navigate a bewildering array of information choices and make sense of what they find.

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