Information Commons Connects
to an ever-increasing demand for access to online resources and
state-of-the-art hardware and software programs as well as all
requisite support services, Library, Information, and Technology
Services (LITS) has created an information commons on the fourth
floor of the Miles-Smith wing of the library. The new configuration
is something of a minor technological revolution for a space that
had largely been dedicated to housing print back-files of science
abstracting and indexing services, which now tend to be superseded
by online databases.
Technology and Comfort
"It is a very open
and beautiful public space that was previously underused by the
overall community. It is important to us for users to have easy
access to the myriad of services and resources we provide and
not be traipsing through three buildings to get what they need,"
said Cindy Legare, associate director of LITS. "This represents
another connecting point between information and technology."
The creation of an
information commons represents an emerging trend at colleges and
universities, as technological advances influence the ways in
which libraries house and facilitate access to information. MHC's
new facility succeeds at integrating information-support services
into the processes of learning and research. "I think it's really
very impressive. It's a nice asset for the school, and it has
great equipment with lots of good help to go along with it," said
Lauren Blair '05, as she sat using one of the workstations.
with the removal of the stacks and was followed by cosmetic improvements
such as the installation of new ceiling tiles and carpet, work
on the heating and ventilation system, and a fresh coat of paint.
The architectural nuts and bolts of the space include a number
of oversized collaborative workstations and study tables where
groups of two to four students can work in concert on assignments
and other research. The info commons also offers plenty of comfortable
seating, including a refurbished octagon room, a spot popular
with students for decompressing and attending to more casual activities.
The category 6 data
connections in the Information Commons provide 10/100 Ethernet
connectivity. The technological lifeblood of the info commons
is its computer lab, which when completely equipped will boast
38 machines and eight dedicated email stations. Wireless access
is available for those users who choose to bring their own laptops
to this area or who have checked out a laptop from the Circulation
desk. Add to that a diagnostic center, staffed by lab consultants,
which students can access when they need onsite technology support
or help troubleshooting a problem with their personal computer.
And soon to be arriving on the scene will be the recently created
position of tech mentor.
to be tech mentors will provide one-on-one help, by appointment,
if someone wants technological instruction. "By and large the
response has been very positive. We've already helped over 400
students deal with viruses and troubleshoot other problems in
the first week of classes," said lab manager Marc Boucher.
An added goal of
the remodeling was to co-locate the once widely separated offices
of reference librarians and instructional technologists. Last
summer LITS merged reference and curriculum support and instructional
technology into a new unit, research and instructional support
(RIS). Legare said that work to concentrate RIS department offices
within Williston will take place before the start of second semester.
"We really want people
to gain the understanding that they can receive training together
with access to online or print materials," Legare said. "We want
to be a nimble and flexible enough organization that we can shift
support staff and materials as needed."
The creation of the
info commons has affected spaces to its immediate north and south
in both Dwight and Williston as well. Dwight houses four primary
computer spaces, including the special projects lab, the LITS
training room, the faculty resource center, and the video resource
center. The faculty resource center is staffed by RIS personnel
and focuses on helping faculty members incorporate technology
into their classroom pedagogies. The student-staffed video resource
center is used for work on graphic arts and multimedia production.
LITS has designated
new locations for the actively used collections previously housed
on Miles-Smith 4. Science reference books have been moved to the
library's main reference room, a move that supports the increasingly
interdisciplinary nature of student assignments. The display of
current issues of science, psychology, and education journals,
well used and appreciated by many in the community, are now located
near the science reference books within the main reference room
and join an improved display of humanities and other periodicals.
"We're not separating books from technology or information services,"
Legare said. "We want users to feel compelled to ask us questions
and understand that we're here as another type of resource."
The Luddington reading
room in Williston offers 20 computers with quiet keyboards, work
tables, comfortable seating, printed reference materials and periodicals,
and information-support offices.
"I think they're
loving it so far," Legare said of community response to the new
space. "More people come in every day and as the semester rolls
along it will be even more heavily used."