Monday, December 21, 2009

The Computer Lab of the Future

A recent piece in the Chronicle about the transformation from labs to lounges has kicked me back into writing. I couldn't agree more about the need to move away from soldierly rows of computers, elbow-to-elbow, into something more comfortable and flexible. I will get into that in a moment, but first I will point out why we still need computer labs--albeit downsized--for a little while longer.

Are Computer Labs Still Necessary?

Certainly this conversation is happening at more and more institutions as we look at ways to cut costs. Do we still need so many computers? Probably not, though we still need some sort of lab environment for three primary reasons:

Provide computers for students who do not have them. We make so many assumptions about our students--today's net generation is always connected, so they must all have shiny new laptops, right? While computer ownership increases each year, many of those are hand-me downs. 17.9% of students surveyed in the 2009 ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology own a computer that is at least four years old and around 1.5% own no computer at all. I would suspect those numbers are even higher in poorer states. Another consideration is those students who have to rely on dial-up access at home; many rural areas still aren't served with high speed access. Rather than work over a painfully slow connection, students in those areas would be more inclined to work in a campus lab. I know my step-sister would. While laptop ownership does increase each year, we continue to have other access issues.

Access to specialized software and equipment. For those connected students who own a fairly new personal laptop, it is likely that they do not have access to specialized software. Why pay for those applications if you only need them for a single class? For those students who run an alternative OS at home, they may need access to a different platform for class work. In addition to software, labs usually offer scanners and printers that students may not have access to at home. Space in a typical residence hall room is at a premium--if you own a printer and/or scanner, why would you take up precious space when you could use the shared resource in the lab? Granted, virtualization will largely solve the expensive, "I just need it for this one class" application issue, but we have to be at a point where campuses are offering a virtualized enviroment that works well and students have equipment that is robust enough to handle virtualized applications. This still doesn't address the issue of scanners and printers and other peripherals--perhaps those will remain a part of the reinvented lab space.

Convenience. If you have a short break between classes, it usually isn't worth going back to your room. This is particularly true of commuter students who often camp out for most of the day on campus. What a great opportunity to get some work done between classes--check the course management system, email, Facebook, and maybe start writing a paper or doing some library research. For those who have a laptop, who would want to lug it around all day, particularly if it is a 4+ year old brick. Even if the laptop is light, why carry it and risk theft or damage--the parents would not be happy! So enter the computer lab (and the library) for computers available for general use at students' convenience. I realize the convenience argument has less weight in these difficult budgetary times, but knowing students, I suspect it remains a much higher priority for them than we realize.

So what's the answer?

Obviously with each year, there will be fewer students who have no computing access outside of a lab. It will be a slow process to see 100% connectivity, especially in poorer states, but that doesn't prevent us from reducing the number of lab machines.

As far as specialized software, more institutions are looking toward virtualization. There are several notable virtualization projects out there already, and I expect we will see more of these in the next couple of years. I hope more institutions will put resources into this area.

So as we slowly reduce the number of lab machines, what do we do with all that space?

The Next Generation Computer Lab

I love this trend of making labs more commons-like. We've seen it at other institutions, and we have dabbled with it a bit on my campus with our "Hublets." Based on the commons concept, I see these as a few key elements of the next generation computer lab (assuming the lab isn't part of a library/commons environment already):

Relaxed food and drink policies. It has taken the library years to overcome our fear of food and drink--and many of us are not there yet--but for a space to be student-friendly, we have to be more accommodating. Is it realistic to expect someone to spend several hours in the lab without food or drink? How many hours do you spend at your own desk without food or drink? I did quite a bit of reading and talking to people about food policies before we opened the Hub, and students are generally good about being neat and reporting spills. If you don't modify those outdated policies, you won't be a student destination.

Comfort! In addition to the comforts of food and drink, students need comfortable, reconfigurable furniture. I have just completed a few student focus groups and surveys, and over and over again, students asked that chairs be comfortable enough to sit there for hours. Again, think of your own desk. Would you really sit on a pretty wooden chair all day? Of course not, yet we tend to put really uncomfortable chairs in our student spaces. You don't have to break the bank, either--I've seen several lab and commons spaces that utilized bean bags, ottomans, and pillows quite effectively (check out my pics of the Cox Computing Center at Emory, for example). Flexibility is important as well. Students are going to rearrange furniture unless it is nailed down. And if it is nailed down, students will sometimes need to gather together, so lose the idea of spacing computers only a couple of feet apart.

Fun, funky student influence. Some of the coolest labs I have seen incorporate student art, signs, or other student creativity into the space. One space even had a little ambient music going. If you want to be a destination, you have to create an inviting atmosphere. Think of the coffeehouse. The supermarket-style lighting won't cut it anymore, either.

Friendly, expert help. I still think this is the most important element. While the technology is important--particularly the specialized software and hardware that students would not have otherwise--the key to a successful space is knowledgeable, friendly experts who can provide excellent customer service. Rows and rows of computers watchdogged by sullen techies is not the image to project. When I managed desktop support, I always looked for students who had a great attitude, patience, and the willingness to teach without jargon or arrogance. The tech skills were less important.

What other elements do you see for the computer lab of the future?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hub Moose

Jonathan the Moose
Originally uploaded by thehubatwts
A funny little item on this Thanksgiving Eve: "Jonathan the Moose" was one of many "Christmas meece" scattered throughout the Hub this week. I managed to find Martin, but Gerald, Beatrice, and Moochieboo must have fallen to the eraser. Here's to the Hub's "Christmas meece"!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Learning Commons Conference

I would love to go to the fifth annual Canadian Learning Commons Conference, in Kingston, Ontario, June 16-18, 2010. I may have to cut SLA a little short for this one, we'll see. Imagine a conference populated entirely with commons aficianados; into the wee hours we could talk research commons, new collaborations, user-centered design, and more!

How cool that presentations are only 20 minutes plus ten minutes for questions. Interested? You can submit a proposal until December 9.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Campus Library as Place is Dead?

Earlier this week at the EDUCAUSE conference in a discussion about the future of brick and mortar libraries, the Dean of Libraries from Syracuse was quoted as saying "Let's face it: the library, as place, is dead." As a commons aficionado, this is a rather jarring statement. Our students and faculty are increasingly relying on online collections, but they still need a space to gather and collaborate. As the Director of Libraries at Emory pointed out in the discussion, why did everyone travel to Denver for the conference? Conference content is increasingly available online. But of course, they were there to interact: "to talk, to collaborate, to think, to communicate, to be with one another. Isn’t that what we do in our best libraries?”

That is why I continue to be an avid supporter of the commons concept and the library as place.

Incidentally, a couple of interesting space articles were posted this week:
  • This article from Campus Technology discusses the University of Calgary's Taylor Family Digital Library, considered the most technology advanced student library in Canada. The touch table capability in the facility sounds really interesting (Microsoft Surface maybe?). The article also touches on the "do we still need the library" debate, citing other examples of creative library spaces, so it's worth a look.

  • Jim Jorstad has written this article in University Business about key elements for student learning space design and tips for success: remember the 35% rule, get your seat at the "big table," and so forth. He has done much work in learning space design so this is definitely worth a look as well.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just in Time for Halloween

The zombies have returned to Georgia State University's library and are keeping students from the reference desk. Thankfully students can use the Ask a Librarian service to get the help they need and avoid hungry zombies. Cute video!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Our Research Commons Project

A few months ago I mentioned that I've been looking for examples of research/scholarly/faculty commons as I am chairing a campus group creating a plan for our research commons. I am still very interested in your thoughts and ideas in this area--please leave a comment or contact me directly.

So far in our process, we have conducted one focus group with graduate students with two more in the works: one for faculty and another for graduate students. We are asking pretty broad questions to get their impressions about services, expertise, facilities, and so forth. We are also in the process of developing surveys for faculty and graduate students. In general the responses so far haven't been terribly surprising--of course graduate students need comfortable chairs and coffee!--though we have learned great deal just after one meeting. I am looking forward to our next steps in the process and will post updates periodically.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Awesome Library Survival Guide

In building our undergraduate commons, Indiana University was one of our primary models. As we start our planning for a faculty/graduate student commons, we are looking at their concept once again. Today my friend Sarah shared a link to their Survival Guide for students. This is another brilliant idea worth imitating.

Reminiscent of a Worst Case Scenario survival guide, this clever handbook is filled with tips from "How to finish your research so you still have time for fun" and "How to find a good place to study" to "What to do if you break your arm and you still need to type a paper" and "What to do if you are stuck in an elevator."

The guide is filled with wry humor and interesting factoids ("There are 166 steps from the first to the tenth floor of the East Tower") as well as practical advice ("Watch out for passing buses, too. When they speed through a puddle, use your body as a shield to protect your books, not the other way around. In the long run, it will be less expensive.")

When I saw the link, I intended to simply flip through it but ended up reading the entire thing. Somehow they have managed to provide useful information and yet be quite funny and engaging. Take a look at IUB's Survival Tips. Brilliant!

Images from IUB's Survival Tips

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Commons at Tulane

The new Learning Commons at Tulane University will have its dedication ceremony on Wednesday. The description of the space includes the usual collaborative work areas, wireless access, and so forth. I like how they describe their help:
Just as important as the technology and amenities, the Learning Commons is also the place to interact one-on-one with research librarians, technology experts, and media specialists. These professionals are on hand throughout the day and evening to assist students with their research and learning activities.
I found a number of photos of the space on flickr. I am actually headed to New Orleans next month--hope I'll have time for a quick visit!

Image from Howard-Tilton Memorial Library

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Zombies in the Commons

Here's a fun promotional video from Georgia State University's Learning Commons:

They've also posted a video tour of their commons.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Librarypalooza at CSU

Tis the season for welcome week events in academic libraries. Cardinal Stritch University's library just celebrated the start of school by hosting their Librarypalooza. I love the t-shirts! The above image is from their photo booth, which seems to be a universally popular activity. Check out more photos of their event.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why Libraries Rock: LFPL Blogathon

I think it's pretty obvious why libraries rock. Take this picture for example. My library hosted a party for the incoming freshman class--just to say welcome and we're here when you need us--and what fun we had!

This post is part of the Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) blogathon, an effort to raise funds for the library which was heavily damaged by flooding earlier this month. I don't usually do the meme/theme/blogathon thing, but LFPL is right up the road and they need your help. You can donate to their recovery efforts through the LFPL Foundation.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hubbub 2009: Third Time's a Charm

After the experience of two parties (Hubbub 2007 and Hubbub 2008), I think we're close to getting it right. Similar to last year, we had around 800 students visit our information commons during a two hour period.

Staff felt like it was much bigger than last year, so perhaps our counting technique (door counts combined with prize drawing registrations, giveaways, etc.) is a little flawed. With five entrances to the space and students in and out all night, it's pretty much impossible to get an accurate count. Regardless of the number, it was clear as could be that students were having a great time.

Some things that really worked in our favor this time:

Time slot. The first two years we held the party from 6-8 pm with the library closing at 8 pm. This created some logistical issues, plus there were multiple conflicts with other events. No matter when you plan something during K Week, our freshman orientation week, there are always competing events.

Due to some schedule changes, this year we were able to move the party from 5-7 pm which reduced our competition somewhat and gave us an hour for the party games and socializing to wind down naturally before the building closed. While lines to organized events were cut off well ahead of 7 pm (more on that below), students playing Scrabble, drawing, or just hanging out were welcome to stick around. Some even helped us start pulling down decorations. This was so much better than staff shooing students out of the building.

Publicity and K Week Staffing. The K Week folks were so pleased with our event the first two years, they gave us even more publicity this time around. The K Week schedule is a 30+ page booklet of events, and it can be easy to get buried in there. Thankfully we were selected to appear on the abbreviated schedule, as well as on the giant calendar posters displayed all over campus.

The K Week staff provided us with a large group of K Crew student volunteers to assist with the event. I put them to work in several areas, mostly playing board games and corn hole with students as well as working on coloring pages. Who would want to hang out and color with a librarian?
Photo Booth. As far as activities, the Photo Booth was back again this year. I think the staff have as much fun with the photo booth as the students (check out these photos for some laughs and maybe a few librarians you'll recognize). In any case, we all have a blast. We require the students to sign photo release forms, so this also gives us images to potentially use for publicity purposes.

We improved our setup this year by using whiteboards as retaining walls around our makeshift studio. We had so many props (borrowed from staff) that I actually assigned a "prop master" to help keep the space organized. We also set up one of the Hub's video windows to display the pictures in a slideshow so students could enjoy their photos almost instantly (as soon as our Photoshop guru Beth had done her magic).

Board Games. We brought board games back again this year, and they were a huge hit. Who knew that Scrabble, Clue, and Battleship would be so much fun? These I also borrowed from staff--in those days leading up to the event, my office looked like I was holding a garage sale. It was even worse afterward.

Coloring Pages. I got this idea from another library, and wow, coloring never gets old. This was such an easy, low-cost activity, I plan to keep coloring pages around for exam weeks and other times when students just need to kick back and have fun.

Palm and Tarot Reading. Our lovely palm reader Jo was back for the third year straight, and it was truly the line that would not end. Michelle, another UK librarian, joined in the fun by reading Tarot on the other side of our help desk.

Video Games. This year we got the video games right. I found an expert and all around nice guy, Keith Raney, who set up the games for us and made sure the students had a good time. Basically I was able to forget about the video games and think about 100 other things. It was so great to have someone here to take care of everything. Thank you, Keith! Incidentally, Street Fighter for Dreamcast is incredibly popular, especially with the old school controller setup.

Balloon Artist. Once again, Gilbert Adams, balloon artist was the hit of the evening. Some students waited well over an hour (more on that later) for one of his amazing creations. In addition to being so talented at creating these art pieces (seriously, check out my bookworm), he is also an excellent teacher. In just a few minutes, I learned how to make a pretty convincing balloon dog.

Prize Drawing. The first couple of years, we created prize drawing slips to collect student email addresses. I had all of these grand ideas of contacting them. This resulted in: impossible to read handwriting and names impossible to pronounce correctly. This year I abandoned the idea and used tear off tickets. Easy peasy.

The first two years we made dozens of phone calls and trips around town (I still owe you, Reinette and Krista) for t-shirts, coupons, etc. It was an enormous amount of work, and it also resulted in a prize drawing that lasted a half hour. This year I abandoned that idea and we drew for only 9 prizes, but all were fabulous (thank you to Windstream, Microsoft, Dell, and MoreDirect).

Weather. Okay, so you can't control the weather. We got lucky this year with beautiful sunny skies and unseasonably pleasant weather. Last year we had torrential downpours a few minutes before the party started. Blah.

So now you must be wondering what was not so good:

Pizza snafu. We used the same pizza vendor as last year. Prices were great, pizza was tasty, they were easy to get along with, plus they could chill 100 2 liter drinks for me so I could avoid dealing with ice (see 2007 for the ice story). They also provided all the plates, napkins, and cups at no charge.

For some baffling reason, even though we clearly told them and even though it was on our payment form, they did not bring the plates, napkins, and cups. So imagine this: it's 4:45 pm, students are already lining up, we have 150 pizza boxes stacked up, and essentially nothing to serve them. The delivery staff cleaned out their truck of what little paper ware they had. I sent several staff in search of any cups, plates, or napkins they could find cached in staff areas throughout the building for cake parties and such. I also sent staff to the restaurant in our building to see what we could borrow. We took every piece we could find--5 cups here, 10 party napkins there, all mismatched--we took it all. Meanwhile the delivery staff headed back to the store to bring us enough plates and cups to get through the evening. It was quite unpleasant, but we got through it. Bottom line: I am buying my own plates, napkins, and cups from now on.

Line control. With two years of Hubbub logistics experience, I thought I finally had things worked out. We had a couple of areas where lines were too close or were partly hiding an activity, but for the most part it was okay. What was troublesome was figuring out when to cut off the lines.

The event ended at 7 pm and we closed at 8 pm. Obviously students would stay indefinitely for a palm reading or for one of the prized balloon creations. I couldn't keep staff there all night, so I planned to cut off lines at 6:45 pm. Almost immediately I saw I would have to bump it up, so I cut them off at 6:15 pm. Even doing that, the last student in line got a balloon at 8 pm. I felt like I should have given out awards for the kids who stuck it out the longest. They left happy, but I was still amazed that someone would wait in line for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Bottom line: I'm rethinking the locations of everything, and we may have a make-your-own balloon art activity instead.

Staffing. The event would not be possible without staff from IT and the Libraries volunteering to help (it takes around 30 staff volunteers, and with us now plating the pizza and pouring the drinks, we need even more). I realized about halfway through the event that I did not have quite enough help (largely due to the pizza snafu consuming so much time), so I spent much of my time moving staff from one area to another as needed. To the observer I expect it looked like things were running smoothly, but much was happening behind the scenes.

I have also recognized that the same staff often do the same things every year, and I suspect some of them are getting tired of it. I would. I have attempted to vary what the staff do (I try to give last year's pizza crew a break this year, for example), but it's tough to do. Bottom line: Rethink volunteer solicitation for next year, perhaps relying more heavily on K Crew students.

In the end, despite some glitches, the event was a great success. We're all tired, but we're already thinking about next year. A huge thank you to everyone who made Hubbub 2009 the best library party yet!

Photos by Kopana Terry
Photo booth photos by Crystal Heis, Shawn Livingston, Beth Kraemer

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Commons in Milwaukee

The new Daniel M. Soref Learning Commons at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee opened on Monday. Their website includes some information about the renovation which might be of interest to fellow commons aficionados. Check it out.

I notice that they will be hosting game nights on Thursdays. I wonder how popular those are in other libraries? We have a pretty nice gaming facility in our student center so I don't have plans to compete with them here. We do of course have all sorts of games at our annual Hubbub party (post about the 2009 event, bigger and better than ever, is forthcoming).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cloud Computing Survey

For those at higher education institutions who work with cloud-based collaboration or social networking tools, please consider completing this survey. A colleague and I are working on a presentation about cloud-based tools and are looking for examples and experiences from other institutions. As part of the presentation, we are creating a summary "scorecard" which will highlight the top twenty campus collaboration tools as well as the top twenty offerings from vendors. We hope to write an article based on the presentation--I'll share details here in the future.

If the survey doesn't apply to you, please consider sharing it with others who might have an interest. Thank you!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Microsoft Surface at Ball State

This post from Eric Lease Morgan describes some of the very cool things happening at Ball State in a new "commons" space, including an implementation of Microsoft Surface (check out this video). The university is among the first to have access to Surface, which is just one of many services and tools of their emerging media initiative. I looked around for more information about the commons and kept finding some very cool things, like the Emerging Media PowerHouse, Teleplex, and more. Ball State isn't too far away, and I do have friends up that way. I think I need to add them to my list of places to visit.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hubbub is Almost Here

It's hard to believe, but our third annual Hubbub party, an event in our commons to welcome students to campus, is only ten days away.

Even though I have more experience now with planning such a large scale event, I feel less prepared than usual. Perhaps some of that comes from being one of the featured events this year during our "K Week" series of orientation events on campus. K Week has kicked into high gear on the social media front as we're now twittering and using our private campus social network to share information, as well as Facebook and more traditional venues. It will be interesting to see how large the crowd is this year...

In any case, I'll be back in a couple of weeks with my usual series of recap posts (here are recaps of Hubbub 2007 and Hubbub 2008). Wish us luck!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Louisville Free Public Library Needs Your Help

Readers, you may have heard about the flash flooding in Louisville, KY on Tuesday which has caused major damage to the Louisville Free Public Library. Thankfully we fared much better in Lexington, but we are all doing what we can to help this library in need. One of my colleagues here in Lexington describes the situation in more detail.

As cleanup efforts begin, we are learning more about the extent of the damage across Louisville. The local paper today reports that a number of artifacts in the Kentucky Derby Museum are threatened by mold.

It's an awful mess. If you would like to help the Louisville Free Public Library, you can send contributions to:

The Library Foundation
Attn: Flood
301 York St.
Louisville, KY 40203
(502) 574-1709

You can also contribute online.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rethinking Learning Spaces

This podcast with Robert Fox, Associate Director for Public and Administrative Services at Georgia Tech, describes some of the methods used there to improve student spaces. From strategies for seeking user input to selecting flexible design components, this is an interesting sixteen minute talk on changing learning spaces.

I was fortunate to visit Georgia Tech's commons last month, one of our inspirations for the Hub.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

New UWM Commons

The new Daniel M. Soref Learning Commons at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is set to open August 24. This article provides a overview of the project as well as lots of photos and a floor plan. I like the glass walled study rooms and the restaurant-style booths. More photos are on flickr. Nice work!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Next Commons

I am delighted to be chairing the Research Commons Working Group on my campus which will begin our work this fall. For some time we've been talking about how we might bring some new services to our main reference floor as well as rearrange the space to better meet faculty and graduate student needs. Over a year and a half ago, I collected some examples of faculty/scholarly/research commons projects. I am curious if more have been developed since that time and will be querying infocommons and Frye colleagues soon.

If any of you are involved in a faculty/scholarly/research commons, please share in the comments or contact me. I'd really like to talk with you about your experience. Thanks!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Computer Lab of the Future

Admittedly this post was largely intended to test my new twitterfeed setup.

I thought I'd also use the opportunity to mention a post about my visit last month to the Cox Computing Center at Emory University. This is a very cool space, and I think my commons friends might be interested in taking a look. Read more at the Translational Technologies blog.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Learning Hubs

I wish I'd trademarked the name of the Hub :-) Dalhousie University is considering four Learning Hubs as part of their master plan. Similar to their Learning Commons, these Learning Hubs are spaces that would:
provide comfort, a choice of study space for groups or individuals, food service and access to information.
It's an interesting idea to move the concept of the commons beyond the traditional library space. We've been experimenting with that here with our "Hublets," as some of our computer labs are now affectionately called.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Truly Uncommon Commons at Loyola

"Wow, wow, wow" was all I could say when I stepped inside the Klarchek Information Commons at Loyola University Chicago. I felt like I was in an infinity pool--the floor seemed to disappear into the shockingly blue, wide expanse of lake. The entire back wall which faces the lake is glass, and I had a hard time looking at anything but the lake, even though the commons amenities are quite impressive.

One of my Frye colleagues who works there showed us pictures during one of our morning "sharing sessions" at the institute last month. I was so impressed, I knew I had to visit the next time I was in Chicago. I'm glad I did.

The four floor facility features 220 computer workstations (20% Mac) with good wireless coverage throughout the space. Library and IT help are available at the service desks throughout the commons. Other services include a digital media lab and laptop support for students. The space includes six classrooms and a cafe as well.

In general, the commons is largely devoted to services, study, and collaboration; to access the library's physical collection, visitors must use the walkway connecting the older library building with the new information commons. Interestingly the third floor of the commons is truly a quiet reading room with a "no technology zone" policy enforced; only print materials are allowed there. It seems there is something for everyone here, and indeed, the staff report that the commons is incredibly busy, especially at night.

Back to the amazing building itself--can I say enough about that view? You may be wondering about all of that glass, particularly what it's like to be right on the lake, say in January. So was I. The building is actually silver LEED certified and includes an impressive array of environmental features. You may also be wondering about what the view is like opposite the lake. It's a nice picture of campus, and the fourth floor even includes a "green roof" which contains Illinois native plants and wildflowers. How cool is that.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to visit, and I encourage you to check it out next time you are in Chicago. In the meantime, here are more pictures from Michael Stephens.

ALA Roundup

I have not attended the ALA conference in at least five years as I have gotten so involved in SLA. This year's ALA was practically like a vacation for me--no meeting obligations, so I could attend sessions and visit the exhibits as much as I wished. It was pretty nice, though I found myself missing friends from SLA.

Anyway, here are images of the poster session Alice and I presented about our Hubbub party in the library and our Swap and Shop PR award for the Hub video.

The chief mastermind behind our Swap and Shop PR award-winning video, Kirk Laird, asked me if I'd be bringing home a 6 ft tall trophy for the award. Unfortunately the trophy was 3 ft tall at most--it's pictured here with a librarian. Seriously, it does take terrific partnerships like those we have with TASC in order to make such creative endeavors possible.

Good conference, maybe it won't take me five years to attend again!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Poster Session at ALA

ALA poster session attendees, thanks for stopping by to talk with Alice and me. I wrote a series of posts about our welcome party in the library (the Hubbub) during freshman orientation week:

Hubbub 2008

Hubbub 2007

I'm writing this from my phone so hopefully it looks okay. More later.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Who's Reading?

After writing this blog for over two years, I do wonder who's reading. I look at my stats of course, and get the occasional comment, but it's still interesting to ponder who's out there. Today I was notified that this blog was selected as one of the best 100 blogs for school librarians, so I guess someone out there must find my posts helpful.

I mentioned before that I'll be attending the ALA Annual Conference this weekend. Any readers in the area, please stop by the poster sessions on Sunday and say hi!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Article on the Hubbub

My former colleague in the Hub, Alice Wasielewski, has just written an article about our experiences from Hubbub 2007 and Hubbub 2008, our party in the library during freshman orientation week.

The article has just been published in the July/August 2009 issue of College and Research Libraries News. Way to go, Alice!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Atlanta Learning Spaces Tour

Last month when I was in Atlanta for the Frye Leadership Institute, I had the opportunity to visit libraries and labs at both Emory University and Georgia Tech. The Cox Computing Center at Emory was so impressive, I already wrote about it and posted a few images over on the Translational Technologies blog. I really wanted to see the renovated Guy Chemistry Library at Emory as well, but our tour group asked so many questions at Cox that we never made it over there. Check out these photos of the Chemistry Library from one of my Frye colleagues.

Georgia Tech's commons had been one of our models for developing the Hub, so it was truly delightful to visit the space in person. Even though much of the west commons was closed for renovation, it was well worth the visit to see the rest of the space.

I had heard about the power strips hanging from the ceiling and the low lighting, but until I visited in person, I did not realize how useful this is, and how much it adds to the atmosphere at the same time. I learned that some of these panels require staff intervention to move, but it doesn't seem to inconvenience students too much when they need to rearrange the space to best meet their needs.

Admittedly I am not the best photographer (that's partly why most of the photos on this blog are from Alice), so you should check out these Georgia Tech photos from some of my Frye colleagues.

Library Help, IT Help

I got into an interesting discussion with a colleague recently about those signs we often see in commons environments: library help arrow this way, IT help arrow that way, even though both staff are sitting side-by-side at the same desk. You might as well draw a line down the floor. I could have used a photo to illustrate, but I didn't want to pick on anyone in particular.

Now tell me, why do we do this? Why do we make our user make a choice? Library patron: "Let's see, I'm having trouble using a library database but that might be because I've been having problems with my laptop. So do I go to the IT side or the library side? Gee, I sure don't want to look stupid so maybe I shouldn't go up to the desk at all."

Is it really that hard for us to hand off a question? I like to think we've got the art of handing off questions nailed in the Hub. Friendly staff member: "Oh sure, sounds like it might be an issue with your account. I bet Stacey here can help you with that when she's finished with a chat. So what do you think of our new coach?"

I have been opposed to those signs for quite some time. Admittedly, we did have one for a short time, but I quietly removed it. Both our IT and library staff sit under a giant Help sign with no differentiation. We should diagnose the problem and get our user to the expert, rather than make our user second-guess themselves. Let's make getting help as easy as possible for our users, not for us.

Photo by Alice Wasielewski

Thursday, July 02, 2009

New Articles about the Commons

Special thanks to Russ Bailey for pointing out these recent articles on the commons:

“Piloting an information commons at HKUST Library,” Reference Services Review (37/2, 2009) pp. 178—189, by Gabrielle K.W. Wong, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Library, Hong Kong, China.

“The Information and Learning Commons: a selective Guide to sources,” Reference Services Review (37/2, 2009) pp. 190—206, by Tim Held, California State University, Stanislaus, Turlock, California, USA.

Instruction and ‘The Commons’,” Educator’s Spotlight Digest (4/1, Spring/Summer, 2009), by Abby Kasowitz-Scheer, Syracuse University Library, USA.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hubbin' at ALA

Not only will the Hub be featured in a poster session at ALA, we are also being honored with an ALA/LLAMA Best of Show award at the annual public relations materials "Swap and Shop." If you are in the ALA Exhibit Hall on Sunday, the awards will be presented 12:30-1:30 pm in the special events area.

This 30 second video, which is sort of a commercial for the Hub, was made possible by the generous contribution of time and talent from Patsy Carruthers and Kirk Laird in our campus Teaching and Academic Support Center. They are terrific folks to work with and now award winners to boot! I'm hoping to bring home a big trophy for Kirk, but at the very least, I can offer my thanks for a project well done.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Going to ALA?

If so, you should come by the poster sessions in the exhibit hall on Sunday, July 12, at 1 pm. Alice and I will be presenting the poster session: Causing a Hubbub: Hosting a Freshmen Orientation Extravaganza at the Library.

You'll learn about our experiences from Hubbub 2007 and Hubbub 2008, and I can tell you a little about what's in the works for August.

Stop by and see us!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's All About Flexibility

I'm still catching up on my reading so I just now saw this Campus Technology article from the June issue, "It's All About Flexibility," which focuses on the new learning commons/technology center/library at Santa Clara University. The article includes a number of photos--I particularly like the use of whiteboard paint on the walls.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SLA Academic's First Programs

Last week at the SLA Annual Conference, the Academic division held its first roundtable/unconference meeting and its first annual business meeting. I was thrilled beyond words to see more than 50 academic librarians gathered for a lively unconference discussion. I participated in the commons table, of course, and gained several new commons contacts I probably would not have met otherwise. Special thanks to Amy, Kendra, and Meg for leading an outstanding series of discussions.

More than 30 SLA members attended the first annual business meeting of the division. It was so exciting to make history, and at the centennial conference, no less! As we had very little in the way of official business, we used the meeting as an open forum for ideas regarding the future of the division. I think just about everyone there wanted to join a committee or take a leadership role, so I know I will be leaving the division in good hands. At 225 members and counting, I think we are well on our way to establishing a valuable community for academic librarians.

Write About the Commons

College & Undergraduate Libraries has issued a call for articles on the commons environment. While I quibble a bit with the theme (how libraries are being transformed from an information commons to a learning commons), this is an excellent opportunity for readers to publish, and I look forward to the publication of this issue. Some of you may know that I don't have much patience for the discussion "is it an information commons or a learning commons" and "what is the difference between the two." I personally don't think the name matters, so long as you are providing the support, services, and environment needed for your students to succeed. Anyway, consider submitting a proposal to what should be an excellent issue.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bringing the Community to the Commons

One of my colleagues had a great idea in using the Hub's video windows exhibit space to showcase art from local high school students. As we began planning the exhibit, we realized this could potentially be an excellent "town and gown" opportunity.

On Monday, May 11, we held the opening reception of "Art @ the Hub: an exhibition of art from Tates Creek High School students." Over 60 students and family members attended the opening reception, as well as UK recruiting staff and a few UK faculty members. We felt like the event was a success and plan to host a similar event next school year.

Next time we might feature a different high school on each "video window"--not only a good networking opportunity for young artists and high school faculty around town, it might also create some fun rivalries between windows. We need to debrief next week and develop our plan for the next exhibit, but I wanted to post a few photos in the meantime. More than one student asked me about the Hub or about UK in general, so I felt it was definitely worth it. In fact, one student plans to do the rest of his high school studying here because: "I'm really comfortable in this place."

Photos by UK PR

5 Tips for the Best Blog Posts

I don't like blog posts apologizing for why someone isn't blogging. Most likely I'm too busy to have missed you in my aggregator anyway so why draw attention to it?

It is true that I've been busy lately and have not had much time to write. I do only try to write posts that are interesting and helpful, so I especially appreciated Penelope Trunk's five tips for writing a blog post people love. Start strong, be short, be passionate, and more. Read the whole post.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Snazzy Presentations with Prezi

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak about web 2.0 technologies at the Kentucky Digital Government Summit, a conference for IT professionals from government entities throughout the state. I've spoken on web 2.0 and social networking software a number of times but usually to librarian audiences. I wanted to do something interesting for a group of mostly CIOs, CTOs, and high-level IT directors, but I hadn't thought of anything clever until Chris, a colleague from SLA Academic, suggested I should try Prezi sometime for a presentation. He had recently wowed audiences with a presentation about his library. I took one look at it and was hooked.

Prezi basically gives you a blank canvas which you can add text, images, links, screenshots, etc. You can group them together, draw lines to your objects, or whatever. As a last step, you connect each object in the order you plan to present. It's hard to describe, so maybe you should watch this clip or look at a good example of a Prezi presentation. It takes a little getting used to and has its own lingo--the "transformation zebra" for one--but I got the hang of it pretty quickly and had fun building and tweaking.

Once your presentation is complete, you can download your presentation for offline use. While it is a Flash file, no Flash player is necessary--the neat little package you download includes an executable file. I was particularly relieved that I finished the presentation over the weekend and downloaded it, as Prezi had an unprecedented major failure on Monday. The company was great about posting updates on the situation, and thankfully I didn't have too many final edits to make. They may be upgrading access to those of who were affected as a way of compensation.

So admittedly my Prezi on Web 2.0 was a first attempt, and I already want to do the next one differently. I was still pretty pleased with how it looked and with the audience response. One attendee sent me a Facebook message after the conference noting: "I never once looked at my watch!"

I'm looking forward to my next Prezi.

Another New Learning Commons

Tulane University announced the opening of their new Learning Commons this week. I've found lots of construction photos but none yet from their opening. Looks like an impressive space!

15 More Minutes of Mustache Fame

Long-time readers may recall one of our early video windows exhibits in the Hub which featured "Mustaches of the 19th Century" as one of six exhibits from the UK Archives. The blog companion to the exhibit was mentioned on BoingBoing and gained a cult following. This week the "Mustaches of the 19th Century" blog was awarded the "Most Whimsical Archives-Related Website" from the ArchiveNext's Winners of the Best Archives Website Awards.

It's amazing how much mileage you can get out of mustaches. Am I a little envious? Yes. My husband's blog has over twice the number of readers that I do. Maybe I should start blogging more about mustaches and less about the commons. :-)

Photo by Cheri Daniels

Monday, May 04, 2009

New Blog of Interest to Academic Librarians

I know many of us probably subscribe to about all we can handle right now (how often do you "mark all as read"?) but here's one more blog for the mix:

The SLA Academic blog is the blog of the new SLA Academic Division. While the blog will serve as a newsletter of the division with some posts about division activities, it will also include commentary and links of interest relevant to academic librarians from any subject discipline. With authors from a wide range of libraries around the world, this is one worth adding to your reader.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

BIG Commons Event

For any commons afficionados in the Carrollton, GA area (about 60 miles west of Atlanta) on Friday, May 29, you won't want to miss The Learning Commons: New Frontiers in Instruction, an event from the Atlanta-area BIG (Bibliographic Instruction Group). This event includes a keynote from Dr. D. Russell Bailey as well as some concurrent sessions. It's interesting to note that one session focuses on a commons in a school media center. More school media specialists must be interested in the commons concept as I've gotten several questions lately about examples of a commons in a school library. Anyway, check out this event!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don't Creep--It's Taken!

While the Hub cubbies are popular at all hours, they are especially in demand during Dead Week. Apparently this student had grown weary of others repeatedly peering around the whiteboard to see if the space was available.

With the opening of the Hub in March 2007, we added rolling chairs, a desktop computer, and a whiteboard to each of the study carrels in the basement of the Young Library. The addition of these few items made all the difference--from run-of-the-mill study carrel to much-sought-after Hub cubby!

Monday, April 27, 2009

If you can type, you can make movies

When our writers behind Saving Student Brian first described their vision for the video, they imagined software that would easily animate cartoon-like characters. We'd be able to manipulate the characters within an environment and maybe just add a voice track over the top.

Imagine my delight today when I saw a library promotional video produced using xtranormal. While the computer-generated audio track is a little creepy, the Playmobil-like characters are pretty cute. This is definitely a technology I plan on following. When I think of the hours and hours it took to create two minutes of animated video, I am really excited about the future of services like xtranormal.