The times are indeed a changin’—and the move from printed books to electronic volumes is undeniable. Still, the University library registered 270,000 visits last year. So when the library is renovated and attached to the high-tech Learning Commons as part of the planned Hoff Academic Quad, don’t expect the shelves to be empty. Rather, the new library will be a carefully blended mixture of the old and new.
“We aren’t looking to throw away tradition and history and a grounded approach to learning research,” says library director JoAnne Young. “We want to add a dimension that fits today’s environment, brings excitement to learning and brings the historic thing into an environment of usefulness.”
Regarding actual physical library space, Young envisions a facility with a wide array of accommodations—lounge-like areas where small groups of students can gather for focused, collaborative study and discussion; a formal reading room; and, yes, areas where students can sit alone, reading quietly and reflecting.
Computers or computer access points are spread throughout the building, and resources in the library are being blended, Young says. For example, the reference desk is to be staffed both by library services personnel and computer technicians. This means students facing technology issues in the midst of a project can get all of the help they need on-site, without having to contact an office elsewhere on campus. Then there’s the question of student time preferences. “Students like to work in the evening, so we need to have professional staff available at their peak times,” Young says. “We already have a lot of technology-based resources. Our expectation is that these changes we see from our synergy will allow us to add even greater depth and dimension to what we have available.”