Category Archives: Spaces&Places

March 25, 2015, 8:52 pm

IMPROVING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE (scaling the commons beyond the library)

I wrote earlier about serving on a Student Experience Task Force. This was a yearlong project that brought together students and faculty with people from the budget office, facilities, student affairs, the Provost’s Office, and other units. It was an eclectic mix resulting in many diverse conversations. Personally, it was a perception-shifting experience and I learned to appreciate different challenges across campus.

Here is the final report.

The most glaring aspect we encouraged was a spectrum of disparity. Students in a living learning community had different encounters than those in older residential halls. Students attending classes in upgraded facilities had completely different experiences than those in older rooms. It was interesting to witness how a sense of place directly impacted emotional connections and output. Our charge was to consider ways to reduce the existing…

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February 10, 2015, 2:45 pm

Are We Teaching Spatial Agency? The subliminal message of flexible furniture

Does space matter? Does the selection and arrangement of furniture and technology impact behavior? I think so. The tools around us impact what we can build. So if we follow this line of thought: can we design spaces that enable students to be more creative, more collaborative, or more innovative? Can we offer environments that encourage concentration, curiosity, or confidence?

I’ve been chasing these questions for the past ten years. It started at Georgia Tech where we experimented with atmospheric elements like sound, shape, and lighting. We could quickly recalibrate a room and completely change its mood and functionality. This is where I began thinking about the psychology of place.

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Georgia Tech Library, courtesy of Dottie Hunt

My thoughts were recently augmented by Frank Shushok, Senior Associate Vice…

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January 27, 2015, 4:48 pm

Learning Commons as Symbol: the new heart of our communities?

Last month I saw a presentation by Robert Sumichrast, Dean of the Pamplin College of Business here at Virginia Tech. He shared his vision for a series of new buildings that would comprise the Business Learning Community. The concept is still coming together but it includes several interconnected structures: offices, classrooms, and residential spaces. The centerpiece is an experiential learning commons.

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Early concept of the Business Learning Community at Virginia Tech.

 

Several aspects are informing the design. First is Innovate, a residential living learning community that fosters the startup spirit. It brings together students from different disciplines and surrounds them with a curriculum and mentorship that encourages entrepreneurship.

Second is a recent renovation. The atrium in the current business…

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December 18, 2014, 3:56 pm

Digital Ephemera During Finals: a photo essay

I always like finals because the campus has a heightened sense of purpose. This semester I came down with a bad cold and had to miss most of the excitement. Fortunately social media enabled me to follow along from home.

catstudy2brokechairgymjump2chair_rollingspunchairsred_bull_libdrinksredbull_deskcheese2grill_cheese_at_libtara_grill_cheesecheesesandsdefeatednapssleepbagmathbrainlearningflirtycrysmartiesbeatsosufutureapple_treeleaving_libsunrise

BTW: Six years ago I posted on the Anatomy of the All-Nighter. It’s interesting to see how much social technology has advanced since then.

Happy Holidays everyone.

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December 10, 2014, 3:34 pm

The Rise of Digital Poster Sessions: creating new learning interactions in the library

postersYesterday I posted this tweet and it received a lot of attention so I’ll expand my thoughts.

About a year ago we opened our Multipurpose Room in the library. We framed it as a gathering place for creative, cultural, academic, and social experiences. The one major rule is that everything has to be public: no private events.

We officially opened the doors in January 2014 and hosted many lecturers, film screenings, receptions, workshops, panel discussions, poetry and prose readings, and town hall meetings. But also some unique events too: fashion shows, comedy shows, musical and art performances, digital exhibits, mini-conferences and symposiums, cooking demonstrations, a hackathon, and live TEDx broadcasts. I believe there were some World Cup matches in there too.

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We’ve also seen the rise of digital poster sessions. The room has eight large monitors on the walls and two…

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September 19, 2014, 2:15 pm

Why do people who love libraries love libraries?

Why do people who love libraries love libraries? This has been on my mind a lot lately. Whenever I find a patron who is passionate about their library I try to decode those tangible and intangible qualities that made the experience so powerful for them.

Our library’s feedback form a great source of insight. Each semester we have a handful of students point out customer service problems, confusing policies, or facilities issues. They are telling us these things because they care and want us to improve. We address matters when we can. For example, one student suggested a new software configuration in our scale-up classroom that we enacted and it greatly improved usability.

This week I had a student share an opinion about our bathrooms. She was frustrated because while we are renovating some parts of our library we are not upgrading the restrooms. Our original building is from the 1…

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September 10, 2014, 4:04 pm

Wait. Stop. What is a photocopy? Three insights from our Library Student Advisory Board

The mission of our Library Student Advisory Board is to help us gain a better understanding of the student experience at our university. We talk about a lot of different ideas and issues. I want to share three that surprised me.

Photocopying? We were talking about printing and I asked the students if they ever photocopied (we have all-in-one machines that do printing, copying, and scanning) and the students were silent. After some strange looks someone finally asked what’s a photocopy?

Apparently everything is a print these days. Reproduction of a page of paper doesn’t seem to be a very common activity. I explained what it was and felt like I was describing a telegraph. I guess with journals migrating to predominately digital formats that most undergrads do not need to photocopy articles. Most of their own content is digital as well — so there is no copying notes, forms, or…

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August 7, 2014, 2:14 pm

Is your org changing? Two book recommendations (and some new directions at Virginia Tech)

This summer my library went through a strategic realignment. We had the convergence of numerous retirements and other departures that presented us with an opportunity to look across the entire organization and consider some adjustments.

The driving factor behind this effort was to better align the library with the University’s strategic directions. New priorities are emerging across campus and we needed to position ourselves to participate and partner more fully. And yes, I’m aware that’s admin-speak.

One theme we focused on was research. Previously we had two areas that shared this same word:

Research and Instruction Services
Research and Informatics

We decided to define our concept of research around activities such as data curation, scholarly communication, publishing services, repositories, and technology development. This is very different from the traditional…

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July 24, 2014, 10:42 am

LIBRARIAN AS FUTURIST: Changing the Way Libraries Think About the Future

I recently published an essay in portal. It explores the mindset (and toolkit) of futurists and attempts to connect that to libraries. I blogged about it earlier with the idea of “change literacy”—which I still think is a fascinating concept.

Librarian_as_Futurist_preview_imageThe portal version is fine, but I can’t legally post their PDF – so I made my own. Besides that, academic publisher prints always look a little stodgy and grayish to me, no offense. I prefer a more uplifting wrapper for my words. Design is a vital part of the communications process and I  like to have some control over how my ideas are presented.

Here is a snippet:

Librarians could discuss ad infinitum the predictions, proclamations, worries, fears, hopes, and dreams about what libraries are becoming. In fact, as a profession librarians are obsessed with talking about our future. Books, articles, blog posts, conference sessions, an…

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July 17, 2014, 2:36 pm

A Liaison for a Classroom Building? Curating a Learning ecosystem.

It is very common for librarians to serve as liaisons to academic departments. They teach classes, purchase materials, answer reference questions, assist with research endeavors, and generally get involved with the odds-and-ends of those units. Some librarians also liaise with defined user communities such as first-year students, international students, or students associated with particular residence halls.

This classic approach enables librarians to connect their expertise with different user segments that likely share similar needs, interests, or perspectives. In short, these librarians serve as the human interface of the library.

But things are changing. I think we are in the initial phase of the next evolutionary step of the librarian as liaison. I touched upon this in my last post about the shift from “knowledge service provider to collaborative partner.” ARL is also…

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