Applying the information commons concept in your library

Stacey Greenwell, University of Kentucky Information Commons

Ron Joslin introducing, teasing Stacey that Kentucky is not in the NCAA tournament this year.  

(Initial technology problems with the projector.  Ironic at a technology conference….  Tech guy comes up and saves the day.)

Just went through an info commons planning process.  Will discuss what did work and what didn’t – “frankly, some things were terrible and were a waste of money.”  Has background in public libraries.

IC called “The Hub.”

What is an Information Commons?  Focused on collaborative, flexible workspace.  Three elements: collaborative space.  Can make a bit of noise.  Can socialize.  Comfortable space with comfortable furniture.  2) well-equipped with technology and related services.  Can get help from librarians and IT professionals.  Specialized software and hardware.  Scanners, AV editing equipment.  Well-trained staff.  3) Having fun.  Student influence.  Food policy a bit more relaxed.  Cafe or vending area typically part of the space.

Why would you want an Information Commons?  Brings students into the library.  80% of undergrads visit IC.    Encourages active learning; group projects a big part of classwork.  Fosters creativity.  Opportunity to expand technology.  IT customer service staff is at the IC, so students can get service on passwords, etc.  right away.  Now has Macs in the library. (Very popular.)  Management of the computers – library was managing computers one way, IT was managing another.  Simplification – make them all the same.  Expanded infrastucture: increased cell phone usage.  

Planning.  At UK, the timing was right.  Focus on undergrad education.  Partnership opportunities.  Funding was available. 

Initial steps: Dean called together key players.  Subgroup produced white paper.  Funding obtained – 95K.

Working group composition:  Met for year.  Student computing services, teaching and academic support center, library public service and IT, architect, interior designer.  

Field work: did a lot of visits.  If you can’t do visits, there are lots of pictures on Flickr.

Huge space – 40,000 square feet.  In the basement, so noise is relatively contained.

Called information commons only among the librarians.  The name “commons” is used a lot on campus for other venues.  Asked the students.  The students call the library “Willie T.”, and so the first thought was to call the commons that.  The family wasn’t thrilled.  (The library is the William T. Young Library.)   “The Hub” was suggested.  “Call it whatever you want, as long as you can market it. ”

Services: Need  librarian help.  Cool desk with sign abover reading “Help.”  Open for reference questions, but tend to get technology or information questions.  The desk is basically a mall kiosk.  Is on wheels and so can be moved.  Need IT help.  Help with passwords, accounts, etc.   Took some struggling to get IT on board; weren’t many people initially using the IT services.  Took the main help desk number for the campus and distributed it through campus, so the people staffing the IC can answer help desk calls.  Added a Mac lab.  Student computing lab.  Includes comfy furniture as well as computer stations.  A/V services.  Check out laptops.  

Amenities.  Canopy work island (Herman Miller furniture.)  Not much place for “stuff.”  Got bins to store “stuff” so it’s there – hasn’t been used.  “Help” sign above.  Caper chair – have broken many of them, but have 15 year warranty.  Relatively inexpensive.  Tall tables – open access computers with taller chairs.  Rolling tables.  Lounge chairs.  Need places to sit and spend a lot of time.  Whiteboards – can’t have enough.  Students love them.  Markers  – initially had markers tied to the board, afraid that they would walk away.  Students use them up, not steal them.  Have become an expense to build into budget.

Eveything old is new again: use the old library tables and put wheeled chairs around it.  New carpeting and color.  

Food and beverages.  You have to relax your food policies.  Presentation folks were worried about vermin.  Have fewer spills now that they allow food rather than before, when they were hiding it from the staff.  Relatively few issues.  Have vending machines in their space.  

Video windows.  Since the space is in the basement, worked with art department to create video windows that rotate.  Have done student art, video shows, video games.  Right now is showing old UK basketball games.  (“Can watch UK win over and over again.”)  One exhibit was “Moustaches of the 19th Century.”  

Whiteboard signs – have students draw signs.  “Enjoy snacks here.”  

Flat panel displays/TVs.  Feels was a mistake – have to come up with stuff to put on them, and so ends up creating a lot of work.  Only time people watch is when they show a basketball game.

Signs – worked with graphic designer.  Floor signage – uses old projector and laptop computer and displays directions on the floor.  

Special events.  Hubbub Party to celebrate the birthday of the library.  800 kids in The Hub at the party.  (Will not do prize drawings ever again.)  Can never buy enough pizza.  Balloon animals were incredibly popular – freshman wore balloon hats all over campus during orientation.  Liked video games on projectors.  Played Guitar Hero, etc.  Did palm reading and Tarot readings.  Makeovers – got Sephora to come out and give makeovers.  Created photo “booth.”  Had props – hats, etc.  

Fun with signs – “The Hub is a No Shushing zone.”  (Fabulous!)

Uses open source library stats database from Wisconsin.  Door counters.  Counts computer logins.  

The Young library has 15 shades of white paint.  (Laughter on that one.)  Added color into The Hub.  Did a lot with paint, colors, and furniture.

Promotion: Writes press releases for everything – has gotten to be a staff joke.  YouTube video.  Articles in student newspaper.  Markets the Hub any way she can.  Had Student Technology Forum – 150 students attended.

Would like to:

Increase reference questions, offer more services/amenities.  Paperback/magazine swap collection.  More partnerships – tutoring center, writing center, expand IT services.  

The Uncommon Commons blog.

Question on quiet area – students request.  The Hub is not quiet; quiet areas on 3rd and 5th floors.  

Question on IT desire for security and open access – talked to IT about the fact that as a Federal Depository, they need to have some access.  

Question about whiteboards – are Herman Miller Easel whiteboards.  

Question on open source stats program – Library Stats.  

Question on too many students and not enough machines – only run out during mid-terms and finals.  Don’t limit time.  

Question on services in physical space; how has it affected virtual services? – some students only use virtual space.  On Facebook.  Have delved a bit in Second Life – students aren’t there, but faculty is.  (Seems to be a space for older people.)  Have chat reference.  Offers as mcuh as possible in veritual realm.

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1 Comment

Filed under Libraries and Librarianship, LibraryTechConference

One response to “Applying the information commons concept in your library

  1. swathi

    please don’t sent vest msg in your net work

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