This week we sat down with First Year Experience Librarian, Maureen Barry to learn more about her service on the Common Text Committee.
The 2015-16 Common Text:
The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
Learn more about this title.
What is the Wright State Common Text?
The “common text” as it is known at Wright State, is an essential piece of the First-Year Experience at Wright State University. It was developed:
- To expose first-year students to our academic atmosphere from the time they arrive on campus for Orientation (which is when the book is distributed).
- To provide a common academic experience for all first-year students by giving them the opportunity to engage with peers in intellectual discussions both inside and outside the classroom.
- To communicate the expectation that first-year students will begin to read actively and critically, make judgments about the validity of what you read and be able to discuss challenging, sometimes conflicting, ideas.
Students will also be provided with a series of interconnected academic and beyond-the-classroom activities that will challenge their critical thinking and evaluation of the text through Learning Communities and in many of your CORE courses.
Who serves on the Common Text Selection Committee?
Roughly 20 committee members that make up different constituencies on campus including academic departments, service-learning, Honors Program, University Libraries, Office of Disability Services, and others.
How many books did you have to (get to) read as part of the committee? Which were your other favorites?
During each selection process, I typically read 5-8 books. We start with about 20-25 contenders and narrow it down from there. Many of the titles are suggested by members of the University community or members of our committee. The committee narrows down to our top 3 or 4 titles, and then each summer we ask the University Community to read those titles and provide feedback via a survey. We take that feedback into consideration before we rank the top three. Then we supply our recommendation and ranking to Dr. Sudkamp, Vice President for Curriculum and Instruction, who makes the final decision.
I also enjoyed The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.
Tell us about this year’s common text. What do you think were the major factors that made it this year’s pick?
For 2015-2016, the common text will be The Cellist of Sarajevo. This is a very timely choice because it ties in very nicely with the fact that the Dayton Community (and the global community) will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the conflict portrayed in the novel. The Cellist also plays with narrative perspectives and explores issues of identity during times of crisis.
What do you feel is the University Libraries role in the Common Text selection process and supporting Common Text events?
The University Libraries usually has one, if not two, representatives on the committee. Libraries, including OhioLINK and SearchOhio libraries, support the committee by providing copies of the books we need to read – we request the titles so the University doesn’t have to purchase them. We also put the final 3-4 finalists on (7-day) reserve in the library so that the Wright State community can read the finalists and weigh in via a survey to provide their feedback. We also provide reviews about the books we’re considering for the committee.
The library representative(s) on the committee also provide a lot of administrative support and help with planning programming related to the common text. I’m one of the Co-Chairs of the committee, along with Catherine Queener from First Year Programs and Carolyn Stoermer, who represents the faculty. So, I help manage communication both within the committee and with marketing and outreach on behalf of the committee.
What would you like first year students to consider about the Common Text before they start, as they read, and after they’ve finished reading?
Before they start, I would hope the students would keep an open mind, even if it isn’t a book they would choose to read on their own. Many of us on the committee are reading titles we wouldn’t choose for ourselves, either! We’re looking for books with interdisciplinary themes and messages for consideration. So we hope that during and after, they are able to have thoughtful discussions about those themes represented in the book with their classmates and instructors.
Click here to learn more about Wright State Common Text. (Check back with the Common Text Committee later this year for a list of 2015-16 events.)