Sunday, May 04, 2008

LOEX 2008 and the Learning Commons

I attended two excellent learning commons-related sessions at the 2008 LOEX conference. I am still compiling my notes from the conference, but here are a few specific points I'd like to share:

From Paint Chips to Laptops: Creating a Learning and Teaching Center in a University Library
Erin Daniels
Instruction Librarian, Sonoma State University

  • Instruction room setup works much better with movable furniture and wireless laptops. Students can easily work in groups with this arrangement. It's so easy to configure room for a class of 5 or 45 quickly and easily.
  • Some design on a dime ideas: find images from a stock photo warehouse and print/mount inexpensively (they spent less than $400!). These images really make their space colorful, vibrant, and gives the space a fresh new feel. I'm reminded of how important it is to make the information commons a space which fosters creativity.
  • Another design tip: have students brainstorm inspiring words about the commons. Take those words and print out window clings for glass and mirrors in your commons. This is another inexpensive and clever way to bring some color and interest to your walls easily and inexpensively.
  • "Wireless doesn't mean wire free." You will always need more power outlets in your information commons. Be sure to plan for as many as you possibly can and even then be prepared to upgrade to more. (I know exactly what she means!)

Learning Infused Libraries: Honest Talk about what it REALLY takes to create a Learning Commons
Laura Baker
Interim Director of the Information Commons, Abilene Christian University Library

  • "Of course you can fit more computers in rows. That type of space is a space designed for the computer, not for the user." What is important is not how many computers you have, but how you arrange them. Based on their user studies (and our own experience, I'm sure), students prefer spaces where many can gather easily for group work and collaboration.
  • The importance of a relaxed atmosphere. In their student survey, zero percent of students said they would not prefer a Barnes and Noble-type atmosphere in the library. As Baker points out, how often do you get complete agreement from the students?
  • ACU has put an art gallery in their space which to me affirms the importance of fostering a creative, inspiring environment
  • Baker said that at one time: "If I had to choose between buying a book and a chair, I'd choose the book." But increasing comments from students like these ("I come to the library only when I have to--I just get what I need and go") has made her see the importance of interior design. It is more than window dressing--it serves a much deeper purpose. We must make the library a comfortable place in order for students to spend time there. This includes creating a culture of YES--lose the "no cell phone" signs at the front door for starters. Amen to that!

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