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Saint Mary’s College awarded PALNI Library Innovation Grant

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INDIANAPOLIS and NOTRE DAME, Ind.—The Private Academic Library Network of Indiana is pleased to award an $8,000 Library Innovation Grant to Saint Mary’s College. This grant will support Cushwa-Leighton Library’s project, "You Belong in the Library," aimed at fostering a more inclusive and welcoming environment for first-generation students.

Open to all 24 PALNI-supported institutions, the Library Innovation Grant funds proposed initiatives that align with PALNI strategic priorities and support deep collaboration throughout the consortium. Grant proposals are evaluated and selected for funding based on their creativity, clearly defined and measurable objectives, replicability by other PALNI institutions, and long-term sustainability. The projects are supported for up to one year, with recipients expected to present their results and share ideas for further collaboration and innovation across PALNI. 

About “You Belong in the Library”

"You Belong in the Library" seeks to build innovative library practices that enhance students’ sense of belonging at Saint Mary’s. The project will introduce diverse artwork, opportunities for students to engage in emerging technology, and a chance for students to build community by sharing their stories in the college’s Academic Repository. Through these efforts, students will also gain valuable information and research skills.

“Research consistently underscores the value of library instruction in academic success,” says Sue Wiegand, Scholarly Communications Librarian at Saint Mary’s College and project lead. “Yet, creating awareness of the library’s critical role in the academic experience continues to be a challenge. Classroom faculty often face time constraints that limit the effectiveness of librarian visits, despite recognizing the need for students to improve their information retrieval and evaluation skills. Additionally, students have expressed that they wish they had known sooner about the extensive resources the library offers. This project helps address these challenges by creating a more welcoming environment with innovative learning opportunities for all students.”

The project features three primary components that focus on building inclusivity and enhancing learning opportunities:

  • Diverse Artwork: Introducing art that represents the diverse backgrounds of Saint Mary’s students.
  • Emerging Technology: Implementing new technologies, including data and robot workshops, to make the library experience more engaging. 
  • Community Building: Offering a platform for first-generation students to share their stories and scholarship in the college’s Academic Repository.


According to organizers, the "You Belong in the Library" project will significantly enhance student engagement and success at Saint Mary's by creating a welcoming library environment that encourages early and frequent use. This initiative will help students develop essential skills and competencies through participation in a shared learning community. Additionally, through the Academic Repository, this community will become an integral part of the college's heritage and legacy. 

Engaging with librarians and peers in workshops will boost students' technological confidence, benefiting them beyond their college years, project organizers say. As they develop higher order thinking skills such as creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, and evidence-based problem-solving, these abilities will positively impact their careers and everyday lives. Instead of being hindered by "library anxiety," students will build community, engage in authentic learning experiences, and gain a deeper understanding of the library's role in knowledge creation, preservation, and dissemination. 

“This initiative aligns with PALNI’s mission of providing high-quality support for student learning and effective teaching,” says Molly Reed, PALNI Strategic Communications Director. “By providing financial support and recognition, the Library Innovation Grant empowers library staff to explore and implement novel ideas and leverage them to benefit all PALNI schools. We are so pleased to support Saint Mary’s College in this significant project!”

To learn more about Cushwa-Leighton Library at Saint Mary’s College, visit them online.

For more information about PALNI, visit the consortium website.


About Saint Mary’s College

Saint Mary’s College is a welcoming community of approximately 1,600 students, talented professors, and dedicated staff. The College is fully accredited through the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, and ranks among the top 100 Best National Liberal Arts Colleges published by U.S. News. Saint Mary's has six nationally accredited academic programs: social work, art, music, teacher education, chemistry, and nursing.

The College has practiced its core values of learning, community, faith, spirituality, and justice for more than 170 years, and continues to grow and prosper, with approximately 20,000 living alumnae. Saint Mary’s tradition of empowering women with excellent academic programs and spiritual support began with their founding in 1844 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Visit Saint Mary’s online for more information.

About the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana

The Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI) is a non-profit organization that supports collaboration for library and information services for 24 colleges, universities and seminaries throughout the state. From its inception in 1992, the PALNI collaboration has been a key avenue for its supported institutions to contain costs while providing more effective library services. More recently, PALNI has adopted a model of deep collaboration that pools resources and people as a tool to expand services while containing costs. Simultaneously, PALNI is expanding collaboration within its institutions and with external library partners to address challenges and build cost-effective services. Visit the PALNI website for more information.

PALNI Supported Institutions 

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary | Anderson University | Bethel University | Butler University | Concordia Theological Seminary | Christian Theological Seminary | DePauw University | Earlham College | Franklin College | Goshen College | Grace College | Hanover College | Huntington University | Manchester University | Marian University | Oakland City University | University of Saint Francis | Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College | Saint Mary’s College | Saint Meinrad’s Seminary and School of Theology | Taylor University | Trine University | University of Indianapolis | Wabash College