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Meet Jan Figa, GSU library’s new dean

Chris Weber
Jan Figa, Dean of the Library.

By Chris Weber, Phoenix staff writer

Governors State University has a new dean of the library, and his name is Jan Figa.

Figa has ambitious goals to change the university’s library space into a multipurpose hub of activity. He also wants to get the community involved.

Figa began his new role as Dean of the Library at GSU on June 16. He previously worked as a Director of Library Services at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. After four years at Barry, Figa saw the move to Gov State as a natural next step.

“At Barry University, they are interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Figa. “[GSU] is also in that realm, but it is a place where you can also see the belonging part. That’s what really attracted me.”

Figa was impressed by the way the GSU backs up its mission statement. The idea of inclusion, diversity, equity and access in the university’s culture inspired an evolution to personal service.

“We remove the barriers and give everyone access to the resources. If they need help, we’re here to help them. In that sense, we are trying to make people feel like they belong,” Figa said. “This particular library has undergone a number of changes. I would like to have it settled down to something that is really for the students and the faculty. Not just tables and chairs, but technology.”

The library at GSU is an ample space. A large portion of it is not accessible to students at this point. Figa wants to change that by creating a “high-tech and high-touch environment.”

In the redesigned space, Figa wants to use easily accessible and portable stations throughout the library. He explained the idea as a barrier-free forest of digital trees. With movable modules, students and faculty can create multimedia projects on devices in the library. In Figa’s vision, the groups can present and share projects on screens fixed to the library walls. This interactivity will attract more attention to the flexible space.

“We are very fortunate to have him,” said GSU Provost Beverly Schneller said about Figa. “One of his great strengths is in design thinking. He is physically redesigning the library space to make it more of a learning commons and learning community. He’s also setting up opportunities for collaborative research and other projects.”

Collaboration is a primary goal for Figa, who also has a background in digital humanities. The library will work with university programs like the Center for Community Media at GSU to help the communities surrounding the university add impact to their most meaningful stories. Figa sees the final stage of his library design as an agora or marketplace full of ideas that students have produced.

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