On Academic Libraries

I am more aware of the role of academic libraries with students and faculty in my first year at Dominican. The Rebecca Crown Library serves our GSLIS students and the whole Dominican community of students, faculty and staff. I am fascinated to see how the library is used, what my students say about it and if they use it at all. Frankly, many GSLIS students use a closer-to-them library or their own library where they work.

This year, I’ve toured a few academic libraries, given talks in them and discussed services with their librarians. It makes me happy to see innovation and new ways of reaching out to students. So into my aggregator come two interesting bits that illustrate the potential and promise of the academic library.

The Ubiquitous Librarian (who ROCKS as an academic library blogger), ponders marketing the library:

A group is gathered around a computer. It’s an active conversation. One of them uses a laptop to search for graphics. Another flips through a pile of PDF articles. A whiteboard beside them is scribbled with notes. They are working together on a project. The Library enables them to be connected, the synergy, collaboration, and all that stuff.
We see the group again. This time they are dressed up and off in a room making final preparations before they head off to class to give a presentation. A PowerPoint slide is projected on a screen and one of the members fixes a typo. Another makes photocopies of a handout. One of the guys is struggling with his tie and a group member helps him out. They get ready to rehearse one more time.

Love it! The library provides space for collaboration. Technology too. Then this passage really spells out Brian’s thinking:

This is the kind of advertising I want to see. Don’t tell me you have a million books, and offer classes, and have great reference assistance—show me! I kind of think we overemphasize quality, rather than utility. Give me context that applies to my life. Why should I use the library? Why do I care? Build stories that show snapshots of patron use. Give me a potential need and solution. And make it real. It can’t be someone reading a script, or looking too posed. It can’t be too neat or too obvious. I don’t want generic examples of how wonderful the Library is or how to use Boolean or telling me how important peer review journals are and how bad Wikipedia is. Show me what my peers are doing. Make me think “huh.” Redefine the Library through actions.

Heck yeah! We need more of this kind of thinking! Next, I see this image in this set from Mary Carmen’s pictures of the NCSU libraries: (Corrected! She works there now!)

Reference Desk

My favorite part is the description of the picture: This is the reference service point. Students are also able to borrow laptops, ipods, digital cameras and camcorders here. The library loans devices for students to use in their coursework! This fits so perfectly with Brian’s vision above of a “collabratory” of space, technology, and students. Heck, I want to go to NCSU and borrow an iPod!

Look at this one. A whiteboard on wheels, yet another example that Brian used above, is available for group study areas. Public libraries could use these as well.

And Mary notes on the set: The NCSU Libraries celebrated the opening of the newly renovated space in the East Wing. The library celebrated with a series of events that included live musical performances, gaming and free food and drink. Find out what is happening at the Learning Commons on the library website: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/learningcommons/.


WOW! This is an incredible page – interactive for sure, and well-designed. What CMS is running this? Does anyone know? NCSU Librarians? I am impressed! There’s something pleasantly familiar about it as well.. that sort of blog-like, social site, human feeling interface. The use of music and gaming says a lot about the philosophy of this library as well.

It will be very interesting to see how other academic libraries adopt such 2.0 features both physically and virtually. I’m reminded of the WSJ article I just linked to:

At Minnesota State University Moorhead, collection-management librarian Larry Schwartz finds himself explaining to students that books are shelved by call numbers. “There’s concern in Libraryland about how we should serve these people who grew up with computers,” he says.

Matthew Kessler, a student I know at Western Michigan University, proudly avoids the school library. Given all the books and magazines it houses, “that place is a firetrap. I don’t go in there,” he says, only half-jokingly.

I have to wonder would Matthew be more willing to use the NCSU Learning Commons to take advantage of the technology and space? And does WMU have similar offerings and he just doesn’t know it? Keywords for this post and for planning your future academic library services: marketing, interactivity, commons, space, gaming, connection, synergy.