Monday, November 24, 2008

What's in a Name?

Recently the information commons/learning commons discussion came up again on a commons-related discussion list. I understand both terms and sort of see the nuances that distinguish one from the other, but I personally see it as hair-splitting and don't find it all that important to attempt to differentiate between the two. My commons is labeled an information commons, but we are concerned with learning outcomes and we partner with learning-focused campus groups. So then we should be a learning commons instead?

And actually (this is the part I find much more interesting), on campus we aren't labeled information commons or learning commons at all. From reading this blog, you are probably well aware that we are the Hub.

We did this for several reasons. One was that we knew we'd have to market and explain any name we gave the space. What really does information commons or learning commons mean to a first year student? Another reason is that we wouldn't be the only Commons on campus. The food court near our residence halls is called The Commons. One of the large apartment complexes near campus is named The Commons. If we went with a "commons" name, we'd already be competing with two well-known entities. So as a result, we knew it would be best to avoid "commons" entirely.

We conducted some student focus groups to help us select a name. Ultimately we weren't able to use our first choice of name (ask me sometime), but we did choose "the Hub" based on student comments. The name fits us very well: our service desk resides at the center of the building in a rotunda--literally "the hub." We are striving for a hub of excitement, activity, and engagement. There is the obvious networking hardware connection. It's easy to riff on the name--our vending space is "Grub @ the Hub," our big freshman party was called "the Hubbub," and so on. And of course, the name is short and easy to remember.

I do find that when talking with library colleagues, I refer our space as an "information commons" as "the Hub" really has no meaning off campus. But the exciting part, and the part I've been working on for nearly two years, is that "the Hub" has a great deal of meaning on campus. Increasingly the campus community refers to the entire basement of the Young Library as the Hub, so it is definitely catching on. More and more students on campus recognize the Hub as the cool new place in the library. To me, that's when the name says it all.

Photo by Alice Wasielewski

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