Friday, October 3, 2014

The library is not just for books

Melissa Ezarik at University Business describes the modern campus library: "While still a place where one can study, today’s campus libraries are active spaces that offer so much more." Campus libraries are no longer just about books; they form the center of a learning commons filled with collaboration spaces that make it easy to study and learn in groups. From the article:
… Collaboration spaces “tend to look less like board rooms and more like small restaurants, with chairs and tables that can be moved around easily.”

… Reference areas have evolved, too. Rather than rows of single computers, these are often spaces where a discussion is taking place about materials pulled up on a large screen.

… There’s also likely to be a mix of hard and soft chairs, rather than a space crammed with as much seating as possible.

… Signage that helps users get where they need to go is still prevalent, but it may well be in interactive, digital form.

… Today’s libraries are, overall, designed to be friendly places that draw in the campus community.
I also encourage you to click on the slideshow contained in the article for a look at the new library model.

It is interesting to compare this with the library learning commons we are trying to build here: At the University of Minnesota Morris, we have been working on plans to extend our library to become a new "learning commons," a destination for both individual and group learning. We have actually been developing these plans for a number of years.

Although the specifics of the implementation have changed, the general plan is to convert the main level of our campus library into a learning center. Part of the learning commons would be dedicated to a "one help" center, where students would interact with reference librarians, borrow technology for short-term use, and ask for technology help—and as always, check out books. The main learning commons area would be filled with tables suitable for small groups to gather to work on projects. Each space would have suitable power and wireless for laptops and mobile devices. Other areas would provide separate, private space for practicing speeches or similar work.

Also in University Business, Elizabeth Millard describes 8 ways colleges can design technology-rich spaces, points for planning technology-rich academic enhancements such as the learning commons. Her advice:
  1. Put together the right team, right away.
  2. Get creative with funding.
  3. Put the backbone in place first.
  4. Consider key furniture decisions.
  5. Design social spaces, not lecture halls.
  6. Create a demo lab first.
  7. Provide ample faculty training and support.
  8. Consider the effects of BYOD.
And again, we are following this advice in building our own technology-supported learning spaces. This semester, we will unveil a modernized study area in our 24-hour study room & computer lab, in the Student Center. This initial effort is meant to be a demonstration of similar technology-enhanced spaces we might create elsewhere on campus.
photo: timetrax23

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