Professional Development

In the 'commons' Category...

‘Commons’ Thread from Roz’s ALA

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1:10 pm

Ok – Thread two from ALA now that I have had time to reflect on it is perhaps related to Info Commons. One of my big projects going into the fall is working with Mary Beth and coming up with a plan for a possible information commons on Reynolds 2. For Mary Beth and I, that meant going to sessions on commons as well as visiting lots of furniture vendors in the Exhibits hall to get a feel for what is out there that might be of use to us in a retrofitted space. The options range from completely custom furniture design – the benefit here is you get what you really need for your exact space. The drawback (other than cost) is that if you tailor it to fit your space too specifically, it becomes inflexible if your space or service needs change. On the other end of the spectrum are the prebuilt options from vendors like Demco and Brodart. Many of these are modular ( ) – so you can buy the parts you need when you need them and move or reuse them in other spaces later. These are the more cost effective and flexible options, but often lack the ‘sexy’ that the custom places provide. Almost all of the options we saw, however, have built in power and even USB charging stations, reflecting what we already know our students want. One of our favorites is Agati Furniture, especially their booths ( I’m hoping Mary Beth has some other pictures she can post of other cool concepts.

On Monday Mary Beth and I both attended a really great discussion group about combining service points. We heard from a wide variety of schools who have, or are considering, combining service desks and service points and heard cautionary tales, unforeseen consequences and the bugaboo that is signage in a combined environment. Mary Beth may have more to say but the thing that was most interesting to me was the variety of approaches to having Reference Librarians on the desks. Some places kept them, some got rid of them altogether at desks, another school moved them to another building; there were buzzer systems, iPhones and other ‘on call’ models to keep librarians within reach but not actually out at the desk. There are concerns about visibility of librarians when you take them off the desk, quality of service if students are your main points of contact with your public, how to manage on-call hours, VR and more. Many places have the luxury of having support staff and LIS grad students to staff the desks. One school took them off the desk and then had to put them back on because service suffered. Another place combined service points and their reference stats actually went down 40% (they don’t quite know why).

There is no right or wrong answer, apparently, to setting up a commons and you have to know your faculty, staff and students and what they expect in terms of types of services and level of service coming from a centralized desk. Most places planned for two or more years (even up to five years) before implementing a commons and even then mistakes were made and issues that were never considered popped up – for example, when you combine with other services on your campus (writing centers, technology help services, tutoring) and their cultures are different then you can end up with what it obviously an unhappy marriage at the desk. And if departments lose budgets or staff, you can find yourself with a service you can no longer offer at your main desk and if you have committed funds to marketing, signage and have built up customer expectations that a service is offered, you can be in trouble. The session gave Mary Beth and I a lot to think (and worry) about. I am sure she will have some specifics of what struck her in the session.

Information Commons 2.0 Webcast

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 3:18 pm

This afternoon 18+ folks gathered in LIB204 for a webcast from ACRL on Information Commons. The sections was led by Joan Lippencott. Here are the notes from the session – it will be available online from ACRL and I will post the link here when available.

She began by discussing the concepts of Information Commons and Learning Common.

  • Not just computer labs – need to incorporate the role of content and levels of service that computer labs don’t.
  • Many also make room for other campus services (writing center and Teaching and Learning Center)
  • Info Commons emphasize areas for groups, collaborations, food, art, etc. as opposed to quiet individual study
  • Need to provide an environment that engage learners
  • Most are in libraries, but some are in academic buildings or student centers

Vision and Goals

  • Who will conceptualize the vision and goals for your commons? Who other than library staff need to be involved? Encourages direct representation on committees by students.
  • How does your library serve the community?
  • Link your goals to the goals of the University as a whole.

For What Purpose

  • Convenience
  • Increase ability of students to work in groups
  • Make more technology available
  • Provide services efficiently and effectively
  • Provide new services
  • Promote a sense of community
  • Enhance learning — should be your primary focus

Linking the Info Commons to Learning

  • Deeper Learning
    • Social
    • Active
    • Contextual
    • Engaging
    • Student-Owned

Physical Space Slides showing examples of spaces from Info Commons

Collaborations and Partnership

Issue is do they become partners or just tenants? Not much leveraging of the physical proximity.

  • Co-location – adjacenct service points and opportunities for informal crossover staff contact
  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration – developing shared mission and goals, joint planning, pool expertise to develop new services, each contributes resources.
  • Dartmouth Center for Research, Writing and IT.
  • GA Tech Information Commons

Staffing Issues:

  • What will be the key uses of your commons?
  • What types of services do you anticipate?
  • Who will be your partner organizations?
  • Will services with other units be co-located?
  • What mix of professional, support, student staffing will be needed?
  • What kind of training is needed and who will provide it?


  • Gate counts
  • counts of use of workstations
  • use surveys
  • question counts
  • satisfaction surveys
  • quality perception surveys
  • Frame assessments in the context of your institutiton’s learning priorities
  • Partner with assessment experts on your campus
  • Communicate to staff what type of information would be valuable to administrators and funders
  • Assemble stakeholders to shape the assesment effort
  • consider both quantitative and qualitative measures

5 Ideas You Can Do Now

  • Form group spaces in open areas
  • Add inexpensive equipment to promote student collaborative learning
  • Improve promotion of content and services through signage and displays
  • Begin pertnerships and joint training with other units
  • Do needs assessments

Planning Issues

  • Develop a vision related to learning
  • Develop goals
  • Determine partners
  • define and gain resources
  • determine location
  • define what you want users to be able to do
  • define services
  • determine staff needs
  • Later you can work on the specifics

ZSR Staff Development Tour of the ASU Library and Information Commons

Friday, April 4, 2008 1:41 pm

On Wednesday, March 25th, 7 members of the ZSR Staff, Rosalind Tedford, Mary Beth Lock, Lauren Pressley, Kaeley McMahon, Sarah Jeong, Christian Burris and myself loaded up in the WFU Student Life van and headed up 421 to visit the ASU Library and Information Commons in Boone. We arrived and started a tour around 10:30am. Four members of the ASU staff (see list below) who were members of the”Library Internal Building Group” led us all over the building. After an amazing tour (see highlights listed below) we were treated to lunch by our host and had a discussion about the lessons they learned in this building process. After lunch and discussion we resumed our tour and by 3:30pm were back on 421 to WFU! Our ASU hosts were just amazing as was their facility. To see pictures of the ASU Library and Information Commons, check out the library’s photo set from this trip!

Below is a list of tour highlights, positives outcomes from the building experience and lessons learned. The seven staff who attended collected these items together in a Google Doc to make this a truly collaborative report!

Present from ASU

  • Ann Viles- Associate University Librarian
  • Lynne Lysiak- Head of Systems
  • Pat Sweet-Facility Manager
  • Lori Davis- Position in Technical Services

(All Four were on the “Library Internal Building Group”)

Library and Building History Highlights

  • 1996-Planning began
  • Funding received in 2000/2001
  • Funding included building and Parking Deck
  • Building completed in 2005, deck in 2006 (Architect-Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott)
  • ASU uses the Innovative Library System

Tour Highlights

  • Aluminum table in the conference room made for a very nice light movable piece of furniture, but makes the wireless mouse and keyboard unusable.
  • They had 26 study rooms. Booked study rooms with III Millennium client with an opac interface
  • Chairs in the conference room were stackable and colorful, light and wheeled.
  • Floors had outlet junction boxes built in with covers that were flush with the floor when not opened. Made for flexible use.
  • They shared students from circulation to reference desk and back.
  • Had “stacks workrooms” on each floor where books that were picked up from study tables were scanned in to have a record of “in building use.”
  • Movable shelves for microform cabinets!
  • DVD collection was in open stacks, retrievable by patrons. Shelved in assession number order.
  • DVDs, microfiche, children’s books collection, periodicals, all together on the lower level. All periodicals, both current and bound, were shelved together using compact shelving.
  • Computing stations were facing each other but off set in a herringbone fashion. Made great use of space and students weren’t looking directly at each other.
  • Computer lab tables had great cord management, and the chairs were light, comfortable, wheeled and cheap. Flooring in labs/classrooms was also raised to allow for flexible room configurations.

Positives Outcomes

  • Lots of light, lots of study space
  • carpet squares
  • Ref collection shrunk by 50%
  • The atrium was glassed in. This really cut down on noise but still allowed for beautiful and open views.
  • The shelving in reference was half regular stacks height. This gave users plenty of flat surfaces to spread out or to write on. This also meant that everyone had a clear view of the area. Library staff could see anywhere if there was a problem, and students could see the desk (to know if the librarian was available, etc) from anywhere in the room.
  • They have a building manager and really recommend this role.
  • The library houses a large lecture hall that can be used by other campus groups during specific times. There are 120 theater-styled seats that are ADA compliant and each has an outlet.
  • Sign displays are all easily changeable. (They really recommend temporary signage for the first few years as it takes a while to determine the best location for things.)
  • The reference desk was designed for students to come around to the back to work side-by-side with the library staff member.
  • Student employees are cross trained and have periodic group training sessions on specific skills (a database, a new technology, etc). These sessions are held three or four times in one week so that there are several chances to attend.
  • There are 29 active group study rooms with various levels of technology. A few have international satellite for foreign language programming. A few have smartboards, but they have taken a beating as some used them as whiteboards.
  • One computer classroom has 34 computers set up so that the front of the classroom is to the side (rather than in front of behind the monitors). There are two projectors so that everything is visible from any point in the room. There are two smartboards. The computers run software to allow instructors to restrict what students can do or to push screens to all computers.
  • There is a server room in the library that runs things like the clocks (set by GPS) and security cameras. (The ILS server is housed elsewhere.)

Lessons Learned

  • Be Wary of Value Engineering (cost-cutting)
  • Getting lots of pressure to be open 24hours. The atrium was designed for that, but not the rest of the building. (going 24 with 4 security guards and 1 library staff.)
  • Management support of campus using library classrooms created more than expected amount of work, training faculty, management, scheduling.
  • Volume of patrons, 600,000 when opened, now 860,000
  • Would run fewer Ethernet jacks (900 wired jacks)
  • Some critical folks did not get to review particular designs
  • Follow behind the engineers (what standards are they using?)
  • They recommended to us to look into the Brooklyn College Library. It’s in a Carnegie library building and has some similar renovation interests.

If you have any questions about our visit, just ask one of us who attended!

learning commons

Friday, March 23, 2007 10:54 am

Demonstration: The Learning Commons: Creating and Sustaining a Student-Focused Learning Space (Joe Williams, Janelle Joseph)

  • Background
    • Learning Commons: social, friendly, inviting, support learning
    • Access to resources, images, ideas, inspiration, research support, productivity support (applications, etc), as well as social components
    • Renovation of East Wing
    • Involved students, faculty, staff
  • Floor plan
    • You can see the PowerPoint here
    • Have in “information” desk, which is a little bit confusing… students ask “is this reference?”
    • Presentation room for practicing presentations
    • Different stations for different purposes
    • Group study spaces
    • Same feedback we’re getting: power, spaces, great wireless, etc.
    • Comfortable space
    • Circulation & reserve at one desk in another area (about 40 feet away)
    • This space has taken over the reference area
  • Services
    • Research & computing, device lending, social space & collaborative spaces
      • Even have a few game consoles set up permanently as a break from studying, no complains about noise/distractions
      • Website has real-time PC availability that students can check before coming over
      • Can see some of the devices they loan out on their FAQ sheet (Word doc)
    • Accessible staff (even low, clear information tables (rather than tall, fort-like desks)
      • Signage focuses on words (like “law” or “dictionaries”) rather than call numbers
  • Outreach
    • Week of celebration for opening of new learning commons
    • Student group involvement (multicultural students affairs office, union activities board, international scholars, student services, student organization resource center), went to their meetings to tell them about it
    • Campus partnerships (IT, center for teaching & learning, campus media, campus activities, eBoards)
    • Future events: with groups, maybe gaming, faculty lecture series (sound familiar)
  • Assessment
    • Observations, counts, usage statistics
      • Including hits on website
    • Focus groups, surveys
    • Standing committees
      • University library committee, subgroup of this is specifically for commons (just students), director has student advisory board
    • Web-based options
      • Text box, fill in comments, hit send (right on front page)
      • Discussion board on main commons page
        • Requires university login to create new posts
  • Interesting side effect
    • Business faculty bring students in to study how people use space, etc.
    • Some people teach in the space (not registering for spaces, though)
    • People LOVE roaming dry erase boards
    • Sound dampening furniture, more social space, louder than in previous space, some students shush other students, do query students when it seems like it might be too noisy
    • Staff didn’t need to be sold on this, but there was a need to do some retraining (printing options changed, etc)
    • Can rely on some grad assistants to help with advanced issues
  • Some good photos and student comments in the powerpoint (link above)
  • Funding
    • Bond, donations, Friends of the Library fundraising, library-specific campaign, education & technology fee allocation for computer equipment
    • 9 millions dollars, covered whole floor, includes learning commons, exhibits room, special collections reading room, etc.
    • 3 year refresh cycle for computing equipment
  • Last page of powerpoint shows other resources that are useful
  • Interested in knowing more? Listserv on that page, too
  • Looks similar to Emory, from what folks were saying; will see if I can get over there on the weekend and take some pictures
  • Maybe they’ll put together a bibliography on these topics

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