LIBRARY PRACTICE 2005: LIBRARY RENOVATION FOR A TECHNOLOGY-CENTERED WORLD BY UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL
(Ѕиблиотечна¤ практика-2005: –еконструкци¤ библиотеки ”ниверситета —еверной аролины в „епел ’ил (—Ўј) с учетом требований технологически ориентированного мира)
There is no question that we are living in the era of information. And most in the library and information science fields understand that libraries are a central part of this Information Age. However, given how the dissemination of information is so decentralized and seemingly so free from the traditio renovation nal walls of the library, it is often difficult for librarians, even in academic environments, to make the case of the library's relevance as a physical space that is important to the process of gathering and using information. Because so much information, even when licensed by libraries, is available electronically both on and off-campus, many believe that the library space is becoming irrelevant.
However, making a case for the library as an important physical space is just what the Undergraduate Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sought to do when it began its renovation in December 2000. The R.B. House Undergraduate Library made the case that despite a trend in academic libraries to consolidate library spaces and give over spaces in favor of large campus computing labs, there is still a need for a space dedicated exclusively to the information needs of undergraduate students. This need is most aptly described by the УGuidelines for University Library Services to Undergraduate StudentsФ in its statement that the undergraduate library Уprovides a designated place in which undergraduates are the primary focus, for whom the space is specifically designed, and in which they are not displaced by faculty or graduate students.Ф
The renovation of the R.B. House Undergraduate Library, which cost $11 million, offered the library the opportunity to redefine this specifically-designed space and update it for contemporary academic use. R.B. House Undergraduate Library opened in 1968 as part of a movement in American academic libraries of the period to make open-stack collections dedicated to introductory college-level material available to undergraduates. The library featured an open floor plan characterized by a study-hall design, with long rows of individual study carrels and a few group study tables and lounge seating. In an era when most academic collections were closed to undergraduates, this type of open collection with integrated study space was a welcome change. The Undergraduate Library also enjoys a central campus location nearby the Main Library, Special Collections Library, the Student Union and the campus dining hall and coffee shop.
However, after 30 years with little to no changes in the space's physical arrangement or furnishings, the undergraduate library became dated and under-used by students. Today, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has more than 26,000 students enrolled and desperately needed to update and expand the space. The primary impetus for the renovation was to modernize the facilities' infrastructure -heating and cooling, wiring, and compliance with current building codes. But the library went further to create a dynamic learning environment that was warm and inviting to users. Librarians focused on three primary areas for its renovation design - facility comfort, technology services, and learning space. The library would offer its same core services -Circulation, Reference, Course Reserves, and Media Resources - as well as turning over a portion of the building to the campus's information technology services.
The interior of the library was transformed from a open floor plan to a collection of more intimate study spaces to shield from noise, highlighted by rich, cherry woodwork and marble countertops. The entry level was given a spacious, airy feel with a center atrium with skylights, while the entry-level study spaces are surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass panels offering expansive views of the tree-lined campus. The bulk of the library computer workstations were housed on the entry level and are at single-person carrels that offer some degree of privacy. The goal of the reconfiguration of this space was to offer quiet places to read and study in a comfortable, well-lit environment.
The upper level, where the circulating book collection is housed, offers quiet reading rooms with many different seating options ranging from leather-upholstered lounge chairs, cherry tables that seat six people and are wired with electricity and internet connections, and single study carrels, equipped with the same wiring as well as overhead task lighting. This is also where 9 very popular group study rooms and two film screening rooms are located.
A building use survey was conducted in Summer 2003 to determine which features of the renovated space that users found most useful. The results show that the top three reasons why students chose to study in the Undergraduate Library were because of 1) quiet, 2) the nice furniture and/or facilities, and 3) fast computer or internet access. General Уatmosphere,Ф lighting and cleanliness were additional reasons mentioned for building use. When asked what the library could do to improve, the most popular response was to have more seating, especially group study space. This response reinforced pre-renovation beliefs that a shift towards collaborative learning in the classroom translates into the need for group study space in the library.
While the facility itself was a central concern in renovation planning, the librarians wanted the library to be more than just a pretty space. The library wanted to offer highly sought-after services that would be of particular use to undergraduates as well as services that might not be easily found in other places on campus. Due to undergraduates drastically increasing comfort level with technology, along with their increased expectations for what technology should be available to them, the library looked at what new technology services it could offer and the factors influencing technology offerings on campus.
The Library created a new project called УCarolina's Learning LibraryФ that focused on current educational trends. The project was meant to create an ideal learning space for supporting the new collaborative educational trend by:
The library focused on how to integrate its services with the campus's laptop-ownership requirement called the Carolina Computing Initiative, an initiative by which each incoming freshman must own a laptop computer. The library also focused on integrating its services with the changing methods of student-faculty interaction that includes electronic communication via online discussion groups, class courseware and websites, instructors' increasing use of technology-based assignments and the exponential growth of online information. The library investigated how it would provide hardware, software and services to meet these needs.
One method of investigation included a survey of students held in a central campus location during Fall semester 2001. The survey asked students what types of computer services and software they would like to see offered by the libraries. They were asked about hardware such as printers, scanners, and digital video equipment and software such as Microsoft Office products, audio and video-editing software, graphics software, and web-editing software.
What the investigative committee found was that students who were not enrolled in particular curricula dedicated to technology or media studies did not have access to high-end technology hardware and software. As a result, the librarians recommended dedicated lab space for such services. A lab space called the УCollaboratory,Ф dedicated primarily to graphics creation, includes a variety of scanners as well as graphics and web-editing software and was open to all students and faculty, regardless of their major or primary field of study. Similarly, the Media Resources Center opened a Media Lab that includes facilities for both audio-and video-editing.
In addition to these library spaces dedicated to technology-related needs, the library also gave over half of the lower level of the building to the university's information technology services unit. From its offices, it offers a walk-in help desk for laptop questions and repairs, as well as a 65-seat computer lab.
One new technology-related service that was added after the renovation and that required no additional facility space, hardware nor software was the introduction of УInstant Messenger Reference,Ф a real-time chat reference service. It has become one of the libraries most popular services, answering 1,869 questions during the 2003-2004 academic year, representing almost 20% of all reference questions.
In Libraries Designed for Learning, a report written for the Council on Library and Information Resources, Scott Bennett discusses the current teaching trend that focuses on active learning and collaborative assignments. The Library chose to investigate how it could design spaces within the library that would support these new types of collaborative learning trends. One such space was a dedicated space for library instruction. The library was seeing an increase in the size of its library instruction program tied to first and second-year English composition classes, so a dedicated hands-on space with computer workstations and computer projection was imperative. These instruction sessions are the primary means for introducing undergraduates to the library's resources. In 2003-2004, the instructional lab was used for this program 384 times.
The Media Center was also seeing an increase in the number of classes that were incorporating film into their course instruction. The library therefore planned for two rooms that could be used to project films on either VHS videotape or DVD. The result has been an increasing number of film screenings in the library. Prior to the renovation, the Undergraduate Library held 193 screenings in the 2000-2001 academic year. After the renovation, in 2003-2004, it had 720 screenings.
One of the greatest drawbacks of the pre-renovated library was its lack of group study space. Students were often found in stairwells and hallways, sitting on the floor, in order to have space in which they could study and work together as a group. As a result, we planned for 9 group study rooms, each which could accommodate 6 or more students. These group study spaces are very popular. Of the 9 group study rooms, two may be reserved. The others are used on a first-come, first-served basis. While there is no full data to indicate use of all nine rooms, the two rooms which could be reserved were used 827 times in the 2003-2004 academic year.
What About Books?
One might ask what role books might play in this brave new world? While the book collection size was decreased by more than 50 percent from 140,000 books to 65,000 books after the renovation, the Library still strives to create a core collection of introductory academic monographs that are relevant to first- and second-year undergraduates. It is felt that the library can still maintain a highly effective collection covering a broad range of disciplines that supports the needs of its clientele by focusing on books that help students develop research skills and teach them to exploit the library's full potential. In addition to core academic works, the library also maintains a strong collection of material of personal interest to undergraduate users, including travel, test and career preparation, and recreational reading. However, the bound serial collection transferred most of its volumes to the main library collection on campus, due to the undergraduate students' strong preference for online journal articles.
Observation after two full academic years indicates that the renovation goals were successfully met. Seating, computer workstations, lab space and group study rooms are consistently filled to capacity and feedback indicates that students are impressed with the atmosphere and services of the building. Gate counts are higher than they have ever been for the Undergraduate Library, reaching 1.2 million in the 2003-2004 year, an increase of 25 percent from pre-renovation numbers.
There is a drive to remain relevant in the lives of undergraduate students, not only for our own livelihood as librarians, but to foster an appreciation of lifelong learning in young adults that they will carry with them throughout life and pass on to their children. The library plans to do this by building on its successes. Examples include expanding services offered through the Media Lab to include the loaning of video equipment, and expanding the types of uses for the group study spaces to include a space for presentation practice for students. Evaluation is on-going and librarians must be vigilant in determining how to continually keep the space relevant and usable for users.