Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hubbub Party: The Best for Last

The last Hubbub party I coordinated was probably the best one. For the fourth year, UK Libraries and UK IT welcomed students to the Hub, the information commons in the Young Library. This event is part of K Week, our new student welcome week. We had a killer time slot, though our crowd was somewhat smaller than years past. Every year there are multiple activities going on at the same time, and this year was no different. Some of us speculated that the students might be a bit worn out; one student even told me that he'd had enough free pizza. Who knew.

Our activities went off without a hitch: the Amazing Palm Reading Librarian, the photo booth, video games, board games, and coloring pages were back again. This year IT added a couple of "Minute to Win IT" games which were quite popular. One of the games involved throwing as many floppy disks as you could across the computer lab into a trash can. When asked how much a floppy would hold, one student rather authoritatively said "1 GB!"

In years past (2007, 2008, 2009), this recap post described what didn't work and what we would do differently. This year I am actually stumped at that one. Yes, we ran out of cups again, but our friends at Canteen vending found some in the truck, so no one even knew. Yes, due to the lack of snafus, I had too many volunteers, but most of us got to watch the party and interact with students more than ever.

What will I suggest for future planners? Bring back Gilbert the balloon artist. Street Fighter for Dreamcast is more popular than any modern game. You can't have enough coloring pages and crayons. Some of our simple, initial ideas remain the best ones--the Amazing Palm Reading Librarian and the photo booth are still huge hits.

Thank you to all the staff who have helped over the years to make the Hubbub a successful and memorable student event. We could not have done it without you.

This terrific little video is a great way to end this post:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Changes for the Uncommon Commons

This month I was appointed the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the University of Kentucky Libraries. This is an exciting new position which includes administrative responsibility for all of the public services based in the William T. Young Library as well as nine branch locations. I will have significant planning, budgeting, and development responsibilities, as well as the opportunity to develop new partnerships and initiatives and create an overall vision for library public services with a terrific team.

As a result, I am no longer managing the information commons, though it is a part of the Academic Affairs and Research division. My last hurrah in the Hub will be our annual Hubbub party next week (see 2009, 2008, 2007). At some point I will post a summary of Hubbub #4 with suggestions for future library welcome events.

What will happen to this blog? While I doubt that I will write very often, I do plan to continue sharing stories about library spaces and services, both commons-specific and beyond. I expect you will see me more often on Twitter, sharing articles and other tidbits of interest. But don't unsubscribe just yet. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy Birthday, Uncommon Commons!

This blog's third year begins today. I've enjoyed writing and have picked up a number of readers along the way (thank you!). Since I started taking classes and have some new responsibilities, I haven't had much time to write. In any case, I still enjoy writing and will continue sharing news and commentary on my own experience in a commons environment.

Some of the most popular posts over the last three years:
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Georgia Tech Visit

Earlier this month while at EDUCUASE Southeast Regional, I had the opportunity to visit Georgia Tech, one of the libraries that inspired the Hub. When I visited last summer, the West Commons was still undergoing renovations. I was delighted this time to see the the finished project which is known as 2 West. While I took a number of pictures during the quiet of summer with a pretty lousy camera, you'll really want to check out their website on 2 West which includes a number of images, concepts, presentations, and process documents related to the project.

What particularly captured my attention are the partitions which create somewhat private spaces yet let light flow through. In our own research commons project, we've been pondering how to create the personal spaces that graduate students crave while avoiding any construction or messing too much with the architectural integrity of our building. I was really impressed by this particular design which included copious outlets and whiteboards, another request from our graduate student survey and focus groups.

If you have the opportunity, I urge you to check out their commons--they have always been so user focused and remain one of the most innovative places around.

What an Honor

I hesitated to post this video, but it includes some terrific footage of the Hub and features a number of friends and colleagues. I am truly honored to be the recipient of the SLA 2010 Dow Jones Leadership Award, described in this video:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Thinking on Commons Signage

So I was wrong.

Labeled with our signature "help help help" sign, our commons desk offers library and IT assistance as well as any kind of directional assistance you might imagine. In addition to the "traditional" things, we've helped students find their advisors, parents find good restaurants, community members find where to print on transparencies, and so on. You know how it goes, and we're delighted to do it. Anyway, I envisioned this desk as the one desk to rule them all: we'll help you with anything, we'll refer you anywhere, just consider us your first stop when you have a question.

So with that line of thinking, I was adamant that we not define the desk with a bunch of signs. If we start describing what we do, inevitably we leave out something. We also make our users choose--is it an IT question or a library question? it's an IT problem, but it's with a library thing, so where do I go? or maybe I shouldn't even bother asking this person since it's neither (here's a rant from last summer about this very topic). So despite the occasional staff suggestion for something more descriptive at each desk, I insisted that we keep it simple.

And what happens when you keep it simple?

Generally I think it works, but I can't count the number of times we've gotten "I'm not sure if you can help me with this..." or "what kind of help?" or even, "do you work here?" While there is a 20 ft sign labeled "help help help" above our heads, I can see where these patrons are coming from. Is this a library help desk to help me with library things, or is it a desk more like the information desks you see in the hospital? You can give me a room number, but you can't actually diagnose anything? Despite a lot of publicity and frequent mention in orientations, tours, and a variety of campus events, until someone is right in front of us with a need, they don't think about what exactly it is that we do.

So I relented. Let's be more specific on our signs.

That's where the fun begins. What do you call it? Reference, research, information, library, Hub, help, assistance...then there's IT, Information Technology, Customer Support, Customer Service, technology, help...We talked about it at length, as I'm sure you have too, and kept struggling with how to label without limiting and yet be descriptive. We hit upon what I think will be the perfect solution with some simple icons (thank you, Jennifer!).

After settling on "Library Help" and "IT Help," we focused our efforts on a few icons to suggest what these terms might mean. We have a terrific graphics group on campus, and I worked with them to come up with a series of concepts (thank you, Kathryn!). Once we had a few possibilities, I showed them to staff and students and asked for feedback. There was some discussion about using which icons on which signs, and particularly if we should use the old-school library icon, but it seemed right. We tweaked the design a few times, and finally settled on our new look which was just installed last week.

Like the "help help help" sign, the new upper signs are visible from the front and back. In addition, the new design gives us the opportunity to lose all those plastic frames lining the desk--ugh--as the lower signs includes space to post hours and announcements as well as hide the impossible-to-hide cords and cables in our very open desk design.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Learning Commons Presentation at CNI

I was fortunate to attend this session at the CNI spring meeting. This is definitely worth a look:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NYU Library Visit

Last week I had the pleasure of touring NYU's Bobst Library. I have walked by the massive building so many times but had never been inside--it is a very impressive space.

To complement the 2004 renovation of two floors to create the Brine Library Commons for undergraduates, the library is now undergoing a major renovation on two upper floors to develop a research commons which incorporates significant student feedback into the plan.

See this report for background and this LibGuide for floor plans and other information about the project. The new research commons is scheduled to open in Oct-Nov this year.

The pictures I took did not do justice to the library, but I did want to highlight a couple of creative additions to various spaces: the whiteboard walls in one collaboration space and the reservable portable storage cabinets in another. Neat ideas, particularly with the storage as we have heard repeatedly from our own graduate students how important it is to have large, lockable storage spaces. I am looking forward to my next visit.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What I Did During Spring Semester

It has been pretty evident that the second semester of my doctoral program has kept me quiet on the social media front, including this blog. What little spare time I had this semester was focused on two pretty intense courses. In the theory seminar, I read and commented on the learning theories of a few dozen authors (Bruner, Rogers, Vygotsky, Skinner, and so forth). Some students in the program affectionately call this course the "Book of the Week Club." As I look at the shelf filled with this semester's books, this is not an exaggeration.

This semester's other class focused on research foundations for the field. One of the final projects was a major literature review which could ideally become part of a dissertation proposal. Initially I had planned to write about the use of synchronous electronic communication in an in-person classroom (text messaging, chatting, Twittering, or other backchannel communication as part of the class), but I found few research studies which analyzed the impact (or not) of these technologies on learning. I did uncover some skepticism about the effectiveness of these tools if you consider cognitive load theory and the ability to multitask effectively. As an occasional backchannel participant at a conference, I sometimes find myself distracted from the speaker as I follow and participate in the online discussion. So it is an interesting question--would the use of these tools in the in-person classroom help a student learn (through ease of asking questions, community building, finding additional links and information, etc.) or would it pose as a distraction?

I ended up writing about the use of audience response systems in the in person classroom (aka clickers). This is more of an old-school technology, generally presented asynchronously to the lecture, and the choices are fairly limited (A, B, C, or D for example). There is however a wealth of research literature out there on this technology: 3.7 pounds worth if you are curious. These systems are evolving to offer more options beyond objective measures, and the keypad notion is gradually being replaced with smartphone or laptop applications. I see a lot of opportunities with using these systems in the future, even in the library instruction environment.

That brings me to what I'll be doing this summer--writing a literature review examining the use of interactive technologies in library instruction. I'll also be working on an internship project to update my English LibGuide and related tutorials using instructional design methodology. Hopefully you'll be hearing more from me over the summer, but I suspect these projects along with everything else will keep me pretty busy.

So what's with the photos in this post? The research seminar met in a model classroom, so we were treated to various elementary school science projects, dioramas, and posters throughout the semester. The neatly printed signs around the room were amusing: "This is a door." After some of our hefty discussions, it was good to be reminded.

New Computer Service Desk in the Hub

This semester Kentucky Trade Computer Services launched their campus location as the official computer service provider for UK students. Conveniently located inside the computer lab in the Hub, they offer computer repairs, upgrades, data recovery, and other related services.

Many commons environments offer hardware services, and I'm glad we were able to add this valuable service to the Hub. Complimenting the services available from the IT help desk, the Hub really is a one-stop shop for student technology assistance.

Check out their website for more information on the services they offer.

New IT Help Desk

Earlier this month, a new IT help desk opened on campus to meet the needs of north campus students. Located in the student center, the help desk occupies a former travel office (note the groovy bar stools). I think it's terrific that IT continues to move its help desk services to where the students are, and this place should be hopping during the lunchtime rush.

Around the same time, IT also launched a new Tech Tips guide for students.

What an Opportunity!

Here's a chance to lead the planning and management of an outstanding commons environment: NCSU is looking for a Director of Learning Commons Services. This is the place with the seriously cool website, the great furniture, the purple carpet and polka-dotted accents, not to mention the place that checks out all kinds of technology. I typically don't post job ads, but I couldn't resist this one.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Academic Learning Spaces Conference

The Florida State University Libraries and Panhandle Library Network are sponsoring a conference of interest: Academic Learning Spaces: Invention, (Re)Invention, and Innovation on June 7-8, 2010 in Tallahassee, FL. The conference will feature discussions facilitated by Crit Stewart, as well as an assessment workshop, presentations, and poster sessions. See the conference website for full details. This looks like one that commons aficionados won't want to miss!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Call for Papers for SLA Academic's Journal

I am so delighted that the SLA Academic division is seeking articles for its inaugural issue of its open access, peer reviewed journal: Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division.

For more information, check out this post for details.

UK Fan Reactions to NCAA Championship

All 28 whiteboards plus the student message board in the Hub featured pro-UK/anti-Duke sentiments this morning. Most were quite silly and had us cracking up. I guess Butler gained about 24,000 fans they didn't even know they had.

It was a great year for all of us. UK, thank you for such an unforgettable season!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Hub!

The Hub, the information commons at the University of Kentucky, opened three years ago this month. We were updating our brochures last week, and I realized "the hot new spot on campus" may no longer be accurate. At least it's still a hot spot. We continue to draw huge crowds--new crowds--so that's pretty great. It's definitely been a fun ride, and I am excited about what's next. Stay tuned.

Photos from Hubbub 2008/Young Library 10th Birthday by Alice Wasielewski

Monday, February 22, 2010

Facebook's Learning Commons

Brian at the Ubiquitous Librarian was on to something when he compared Facebook's employee working environment to a learning commons environment. This recruitment video (as well as these images) show their collaborative, colorful, creative environment:

What do you think? Reminds me of today's academic library.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Student Technology Forum

Last night the Hub was host once again to the second annual Student Technology Forum (last year I wrote quite a bit about the event). I think we had a bigger crowd this year; definitely IT offered more prizes--24 of them, including a Dell netbook! The purpose of the forum is to introduce students to IT staff (as well as Libraries and staff from the teaching and learning group) and solicit opinions on what works well, what doesn't, etc.

In my mind, it is primarily a nice student appreciation event, but I think we also get a lot of good information from the survey that students complete for the prize drawing. One very clever marketing move from IT was to offer a "second chance" drawing among the students who become fans of IT's Facebook page by the end of today. I bet they'll end up with a lot of fans.

I love hosting events in the Hub--great exposure for our space--and hope we'll plan another event together soon. This did remind me that Hubbub number four is only six months away!

Photos by Tony Jenkins

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Learning Commons Expansion at UMass

Study aid...
Originally uploaded by learning_commons
The Learning Commons at the University of Massachusetts W.E.B. Du Bois Library has recently expanded to bring the commons' seating from 250 to 450, and 30,000 square feet of space, including eight new group study rooms.

Looks like a neat place--some photos of their space.

Fact sheet on the Learning Commons

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Learning Commons Conference in Kingston, Ontario

The program and registration information are now available for the 5th Annual Canadian Learning Commons Conference. Titled A Journey in Progress: Been There! Done That! What's Next!, the conference will be held June 16-18, 2010 in Kingston, Ontario. This looks to be an excellent event--wish I could go!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Info Commons Project Documents

David from the InfoCommons and Beyond blog has posted a link to some interesting documentation from Georgia Tech. The documents seem to be a few years old, but they still provide some good insights:
The good folks at Georgia Tech have posted a very useful set of documents on planning and assessment: focus groups, questionnaires, a case study by Herman Miller, and fascinating essay by freshman Erica Hocking on the the Commons as a "Sacred Space" for learning.
If you haven't already, be sure to check out the InfoCommons and Beyond blog--the sidebar contains lots of links to commons spaces around the world, as well as relevant reading, presentations, and other documents.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Snow Day!

Once the tiniest amount of snow falls here in Kentucky, out comes the sleds. The hill in front of my library is one of the best sledding spots on campus. Maybe we should start checking out sleds in our commons, especially to those two students using a plastic tarp :-) Seriously, share in the comments if you know of a library/commons that checks out unusual items.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Just Testing

As Twitterfeed has been having issues, I decided to try "socializing" my FeedBurner feed with Twitter. New posts from this blog and from Translational Technologies should show up on my Twitter as "New post: Title."

Just testing to see how it works :)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

Another year has passed. This blog is now two and a half years old, and I have been managing the Hub, the University of Kentucky's Information Commons, for nearly three. While I am posting less, I am Twittering more (@staceygreenwell). Between my doctoral program, a more-than-full-time job, lots of varied campus interests, and a new obsession with Pure Barre during the disc golf off-season (last year it was Zumba), it is much easier to share a link and a sentence about something interesting than write a few paragraphs about it. I still love this little blog and plan to keep on writing, particularly when I have something worthy of a longer post.

Here were a few of this blog's most popular posts in 2009:
I had a terrific 2009, and I hope you did, too. Definitely one of the high points was getting to know my Frye class--you guys are great! I did not win the SLA election, but it was a valuable experience, and I met a lot of interesting people along the way. I also got to present at several library and IT conferences which is something I really enjoy.

I wish you all a happy, fulfilling, and prosperous new year. Thanks for reading, and here's to 2010!