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Info Site Juiced Up for UB's International Students

Peers help librarians improve the online welcome for thousands

Release Date: August 21, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The 4,000-plus international students who begin classes this semester at the University at Buffalo will find enhanced resources on the UB Libraries' Web site suggested by their peers and developed by the libraries especially for them.

The project was conducted over the past several months by UB Associate Librarian Dorothy Tao and Senior Assistant Librarian Ligaya Ganster. They serve as liaisons for international students, who now make up nearly 15 percent of UB's student population, the largest percentage of any public research university in the United States.

Stephen Dunnett, Ph.D., UB's vice provost for international education, calls the Web project "an excellent service for our international students, many of whom are intimidated by our huge decentralized library system."

Ganster says, "We had our own ideas of what was needed, of course, but to insure that we offered students information they want in a format they can easily use, we enlisted the aid of other international students who served as advisors and focus group members."

The result of the joint effort is UB's "Resources for International Students" at http://library.buffalo.edu/libraries/gethelp/international.

"We offer a detailed library orientation for international students before classes begin and, of course, all of our librarians are available in person to assist," says Ganster, "but these students have special needs.

"If they run into a problem, for instance, some of them may have difficulty asking for help in person," Tao says. "They are young and in a foreign country, many for the first time. They may not know the proper etiquette for asking for help or are afraid their English isn't adequate to the task. Others come from cultures in which they are not encouraged to question those who are older or in authority. So the anonymity and convenience of the Internet is particularly helpful to them."

The new Web pages include many new features of particular use to those students. They explain the libraries' "Ask a Librarian" services (http://library.buffalo.edu/libraries/askalibrarian/) in language very clear to non-native English speakers, describing how to use instant messaging, email and the libraries' Facebook pages (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Buffalo-NY/University-at-Buffalo-Libraries/6629876727).

The pages also offer research tips, explain the interlibrary loan process and describe how documents can be expressed to the user upon request. They present a multi-lingual glossary of library terms and a link to a site that translates English library terms into multiple languages.

There is also an explanation of how to use UB's open-stack library system.

"This may seem obvious, but open stacks are not found worldwide," says Tao. "Many students come from countries in which users cannot peruse library collections, but must request a specific book or document and wait for the librarian to bring it to them. Recognition of this difference and guidance in using the open stacks is most welcome by students already overwhelmed with new experiences."

At the suggestion of the student advisors, the site also describes how to find books, audio and video recordings in foreign languages in the collection for leisure reading and entertainment.

There are links to language dictionaries and to multi-language periodicals and foreign language newspapers, some in the UB collection and others online at Lexis Nexis Academic, the Foreign Language News Guide, the MIT Libraries and the Internet Public Library.

In addition, there is information about how to access a variety of English-as-a-second-language resources at UB and links to others on the Web.

Ganster says, "We will also add two downloadable library tours in Japanese and Mandarin. Most students speak English as a requirement of their studies here, but these will offer additional assistance."

The students who served as advisors on the project are Hee Jion Choi, an English department Ph.D. student from Korea; Kevin In-Ju L. Lim of Singapore, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication; Hiok Hoe E. Ng, also of Singapore, an M.Arch. student in the School of Architecture and Planning, and Yungting Fu, an MLS candidate in the Department of Information and Library Studies. Site design was provided by Libraries' Instructional Support Technician Scott Hollander.

Last year UB's international students (most of whom come from Korea, India and China) contributed more than $79 million to the Western New York economy according to "The Economic Benefits of International Education to the United States for the 2006-2007 Academic Year: A Statistical Report" published by the Association of International Educators.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

Patricia Donovan
Senior Editor, Arts, Humanities, Public Health, Social Sciences
Tel: 716-645-4602
pdonovan@buffalo.edu