Student-Librarian Collaboration Makes Frank DiMino Casa Italiana Library Collection More Accessible

Published April 17, 2024

A 5,000-piece collection of books, journals, and encyclopedias about Italian history, culture, food, humor, and more at Frank DiMino Casa Italiana is becoming more accessible to the Nazareth University campus and the public thanks to a collaboration by Frank DiMino Casa Italiana, students of the Italian program, and Nazareth’s Lorette Wilmot Library. A new $5,000 grant from the Rochester Regional Library Council will accelerate the work and support the project’s completion.

Nazareth University students organized and have been cataloging the collection — formerly listed in a notebook — so it’s searchable online. So far, 25% of the items are searchable: Frank DiMino Casa Italiana Library.

“Since the Casa Italiana opened in 1978, its library has always been a resource for Nazareth’s students studying Italian, for students of Italian ancestry, for Nazareth faculty and staff, and for the Rochester community,” said Joëlle Carota, director of the Casa and visiting assistant professor at Nazareth. “I knew that making the Casa library available to search digitally could open the collection up to many more community members.”

The first student to tackle the project was senior communication and media major Danielle Monti, a Casa intern in summer 2023. “It started off as a messy catalog notebook with the entire inventory of books in the Casa's library,” said Monti, who is minoring in Italian. “We spent time figuring out how to organize the books into different categories, and how we wanted to label them all.”

Monti left the project in a good place for Nazareth junior Krysha Pierce to take over in September. Pierce, an Italian and English double major with a minor in communication and media, said the Casa library has gone from a room of haphazardly stored books to an organized and alphabetized collection.

“This project is important because the Frank DiMino Casa Italiana has the materials to be a valuable resource to students on campus but without any sort of organization, it was hard to make use of it,” said Pierce. Currently, anyone can check out a book by visiting or calling the Casa, and by this fall they will have the ability to place holds and renew books electronically.

The students have done nearly all of the work, said Nazareth Library Acquisitions Coordinator Emily Artruc, who trained the students in the cataloging process. “It’s been really satisfying to watch the transformation of the Casa library,” said Artruc. “When we first started it was a cramped space with books everywhere. To see it all get sorted and color-coded, it’s pretty. I’m so proud of our students for this work.”

Tara Winner-Swete, head of cataloging & metadata at Nazareth’s library, said, “The students are getting hands-on experience, even if they aren’t going into library science. They are handling all these books, and learning about Italian language and culture, while taking a very non-accessible collection and making it accessible to anyone with the internet far beyond Rochester, New York.”

Pierce continues to work on the Casa library and was joined by English major Hannah Frazier this spring. Frazier, who also has a double minor in communication and media and Italian, says the project increased her exposure to all things Italian while also honoring Italian heritage in Rochester.

“This project is important to me because in Rochester we have such a closely knit and predominant Italian American community, and the work we do at the Casa library not only allows us to honor important members within that community and keep that culture alive, but to make more resources accessible to those who want to learn about it and students like me who discovered their love for the culture upon coming to college and taking classes,” said Frazier.

All three students who’ve worked on the project will study abroad in Pescara, Italy, this summer.

In March 2024, the Rochester Regional Library Council awarded the Special Project Grant to the Frank DiMino Casa Italiana to help complete its ongoing library cataloging project by hiring a library science graduate student intern for the fall 2024 semester. The graduate student will get direct cataloging library experience with an active collection and will be paid for their work, and the Casa Italiana benefits by having a library paraprofessional to tackle more complex cataloging and processing aspects of the current collection.

Carota says this collaboration between the Casa and the library is truly wonderful, and it’s also giving students a path towards their professional future.

“There is the common misperception that with a foreign language degree, you can only become a foreign language teacher. You can study a foreign language and pair it with another field, even medical school. One of our Italian majors just got  into the master’s of library science program at University of Buffalo! ​​This cataloging project is providing a bridge between the students' interests or passions and how they can use those passions in the real world.”

Frazier agrees. “Doing this work opened up an avenue of potential career prospects I hadn’t thought of before. It’s really satisfying when an on-campus job can help prepare you and show you what you want to do as a full-time career after college.”

The Casa Italiana also prides itself on creating one of the most welcoming environments on campus, and Carota is thrilled that the library space has been reclaimed by the students.

“The community and environment at the Casa Italiana is what made me feel the most welcome at Nazareth following a difficult and last-minute transfer from my previous university,” said Frazier.

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Danielle Monti working in Casa Italiana library

Danielle Monti ‘24 was the first intern on the project during summer 2023.

Krysha Pierce and Hannah Frazier cataloguing books

Krysha Pierce ‘25 (left) and Hannah Frazier ‘25 are currently working on the library project. All three students will study abroad in Pescara, Italy this summer.

Krysha Pierce and Hannah Frazier organizing a bookshelf

Pierce and Frazier organizing books in the Casa. They are proud of their work to make the library more accessible.