Page 10 - Campus Technology, May/June 2019
P. 10

Learning Spaces dian schaffhauser
IN APRIL, the University of Louisiana Mon- roe’s Library will celebrate its 20th anniversary. In library years, that’s a long time. Called the “jewel of the bayou” when it first opened along a distinctive wetland, by 2019 the five-story structure definitely needed an update, if only because the way people learn has evolved. As Library Director Megan Lowe explained, back when her facility was built, libraries were “regarded as repositories of information; librar- ians were gatekeepers of information. Now we’re more about facilitating access and sup- porting the learners, supporting the researcher. That takes a lot of different forms. Not just connecting reader to book anymore; it’s con- necting a user to resource or user to service, and therefore we have to change.”
About 18 months ago, the university hired Thomas Hoover as chief information officer and dean of the library. Almost immediately, he, Lowe and Chance Eppinette, information technology director, took a “road trip” togeth- er. They visited five different institutions in the southern part of the state to look at what other libraries were doing. Their goal: to turn their current facility into a “digital commons.”
Now their vision is starting to come to life — on a single floor. Their approach, however, of working with students, finding common interests between the library and IT and com-
ing up with that certain “something” that highlights the uniqueness of the facility, will stand them in good stead as they remodel their way through the rest of the building.
Making Space for Collaboration
For the last couple of years, the team has been setting up collaboration study rooms among the five floors of the facility, where, as Eppinette explained, “anywhere from three to 10 students can reserve a room and gather with their partners and utilize touchscreen AV technology.”
Usage of those rooms among students proved popular and delivered the “kickstart” for the expansion of technology throughout the library. Now, Eppinette noted, “We’re moving those four study room walls out; we want them to still have that collaboration, but they’re doing it in an open air space.”
By “open air space,” he specifically meant the second floor, which was left empty after a “deselection” process had eliminated about half of the library’s physical book collection.
What the trio imagined was a space that would be “fun to be in, comfortable,” with dif- ferent “zones,” such as a computer lab spread out in various configurations and collabora- tive spaces where students could be “alone but together.” In other areas, tall bistro tables
Building a Digital Commons One Floor at a Time
When you lack the money to tackle a multi-million-dollar library makeover, try a measured approach.

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