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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cal Poly Stretches the Concept

California Polytechnic has a brief description of the planned renovation to the Robert E. Kennedy Library. Current plans call for a design phase to begin in 2013, with a two-year construction phase projected to begin in 2015 or earlier. The expanded facility will be called the Academic Center and Library.  Partners include the Academic Skills Center, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Honors Program, printing services, ITS, the Peace Corps, and Research Scholars in Residence.

Friday, May 8, 2009

How Are We Doing? Assessment of the IC

Everyone says their Commons is a good thing. Students love it. Gate counts are way up. We can point to all the good things we do and provide. But what good comes of all the changes? Are we improving learning? Are students doing better, producing higher quality work? Have faculty seen a marked difference since the Commons was introduced? Georgia Tech has posted a mix of user studies, focus group reports, questionnaires, and a first year report card.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto

Michael Buckland's brief but seminal book, Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto, is available at the Berkeley Digital Library. This 1992 publication is often cited for its elegantly simple construct:

Paper Library > Automated Library > Electronic Library

As I noted in my earlier post today, we seem to be stuck in the transitional Automated Library, part paper, part electronic. One of Buckland's more practical insights is that local storage is optional.

"Just as the change from the Paper Library to the Automated Library, in conjunction with the rise of on-line bibliographies, changes our perspective on the catalog, so also the rise of the Electronic Library changes our perspective on collecting and local collections. Instead of our thinking being dominated by local collections, as is unavoidable with the Paper Library and the Automated Library, the effect of having electronic documents is to make local storage optional rather than necessary."

At some point, the cost of storing and maintaining paper and microform collections has to outweigh the "just in case" argument. Especially as more of the contents of those materials are available electronically. It may not be a book you can hold in your hand, but if the content can be read or viewed anytime by simultaneous users, isn't that a trade-off that cannot be denied?

ASU's Tech Officer's scorched earth view of library

Adrian Sannier's keynote speech at last December's Campus Technology '08 conference lit fires under several academic sacred cows. Sannier is chief technology officer at Arizona State. He was responsible for moving ASU's student email to Google's GMail and saving $400,000/year.

His keynote ended with this not-so modest proposal:

"Finally, I suggest you burn down the library. All the books in the world are already digitized! Burn the thing down. Change it into a gathering place; a digital commons. Stop air conditioning the books! None of us has the Alexandria Library; Michigan, Oxford [UK], and Stanford [CA] have digitized their collections. What do you have that they don't? Why are you buying new books? Buy digital and let's spend some more time making those things level, flat, and transparent so a single search turns up everything we have. This has to change, because it's clear that people want to find information digitally. They want to search for it, find it, have it, and then amalgamate search results into a précis."

So he's for the idea of a commons-like gathering place. That's good. And he's right about the need to shrink our collections for the sake of efficiency. But we are still a ways from digitizing "all the books in the world." My experience with Google Book Search is that the "full view" items, i.e., those completely clear of copyright, are not what my students are looking for.

The title of his speech "From Context to Core" is a worthwhile concept. We have to work hard on defining the core for the institution and for the library that serves the institution. The Information/Learning Commons is a response to a newly defined core, a transformation in the definition of service and resources. But for a while we are going to have to support a transitional kind of organization, one that slowly but inevitably moves toward Sannier's vision. Just not yet.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Design Elements - Signage

An Information Commons can be confusing and hard to navigate.  Multiple service desks make it even more complicated.  UNC-Charlotte considered the question of signage using Apple Store's Genius Bar as inspiration and posted a possible solution on YouTube.