By Rodolfo Mireles
“Hi! Actually, let’s not do this in here. The conference room has more space,” said Joyce Hommel, Executive Director of the Learning Resources Division. It’s a Thursday morning at the facility which opens its doors at 7:30 a.m. every weekday in the fall and the new standard bearer for the Bailey Library and Computer Commons is pointing to the sizable assortment of papers, folders, and other office fodder that somehow looks completely organized and tame. Hommel took the reins for the division this August after a career that has taken her from the University of Minnesota Library System in the heart of the Midwest all the way to the Empire State where she was an instructor at Syracuse University’s I-School where she taught library management, technology management and grant writing.
As technology moves forward, many questions have begun to arise on the sustainability of brick and mortar library technology. However, according to Hommel, these worries are unfounded. When asked about the challenges of facing new technology, her face lit up—a response that as a millennial who embraces technology—albeit a little too much sometimes—was shocking.
“Today, there are increased avenues of discovering information, but what we find in the publishing world is that people are still buying books. And they’re not only buying a few—they’re buying more books than they ever have!” said Hommel with a look that can only rival that of a proud parent watching their child score their first goal on the soccer field.
She’s right about those numbers. New data released by the Association of American Publishers show that e-book sales declined 18.7 percent over the first nine months of 2016. Paperback sales rose 7.5 percent over the same period with hardback sales growing 4.1 percent. Younger generations are also on the paper train. A 2013 survey by the youth research agency Voxburner found that 62 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds preferred print to e-books.
Hommel is prepared to take on the task to ensure the perfect synergy for the younger students as well as the non-traditional students typical of a community college. “I really look at trying to find the perfect balance between that brick-and-mortar and virtual library presence. The students need 24-hour access. They not only need resources but they need access to librarians that can help them understand the information as well.”
Publishing technology won’t be regressing anytime soon. As old media shacks turn into multimedia powerhouses and publishers turn to new smart apps to drive sales, Hommel knows that her job is not pushing one platform or another, but figuring out the right mix to ensure a quality result for the probing mind. “In my mind, and what you are seeing in the broader world of information, is not that one is obsolete and the other is the only way to go; it’s that there is now a much wider variety for those outputs. It’s our job to seat each one of those connection points so that the curiosity can be fed whenever it needs to be fed.”
While the job can seem daunting, Hommel is in tune with the most important part of the job—the students. Reminiscent of the army general who is on one knee next to the private, taking directions from a sergeant, the student is where the rubber meets the road for Hommel.
“By far my favorite part is walking out and seeing students, talking to students, and just kind of observing how they’re going about the learning process,” said Hommel. “Like a faculty member, I’m always excited to see that light bulb moment. Learning takes time and sometimes you struggle with something for a while and then all of a sudden it gels in your brain. I get to see that here a lot. To me, that’s rewarding.”
For more information on the Bailey Library and Computer Commons visit http://www.wccnet.edu/resources/library/welcome/.