Undergrad Library gets upgrades

Nik Jayaram, sophomore in LAS, and Alex Atkins, sophomore in ALS, work at the Undergraduate library on Wednesday evening. The library is currently preparing to undergo major renovations. Patrick Traylor

Nik Jayaram, sophomore in LAS, and Alex Atkins, sophomore in ALS, work at the Undergraduate library on Wednesday evening. The library is currently preparing to undergo major renovations. Patrick Traylor

By Mike Kelly

The University’s Undergraduate Library is currently undergoing renovations and updates, slated for completion between 2007 and 2008.

For the first time in 30 years, major changes are beginning to take place. The Undergraduate Library is building a whole new kind of learning environment within its walls, the Learning Commons.

According to the Undergraduate Library’s Web site, “the Learning Commons will fill a void on campus for a collaborative space and is intended to create a new vision of the library as the place where all students come together to study, learn and socialize.”

This project will be funded through the collaboration of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, University Library and Campus Information Technology and Educational Services.

“We’ve been talking about this since 2004. Last September we focused our efforts on vision and implementation,” said Lisa Hinchliffe, coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction and future head of the Undergraduate Library.

The project will consist of three phases, the first of which is already underway.

This first step will focus on making spaces where groups can work together. This includes new living room style tables and chairs that are meant to be moved around.

“We’re looking for collaborative space; rather than putting up walls and rooms, we will use flexible furniture,” Hinchliffe said.

In addition, it will include a laptop checkout service, which allows students to check out a new laptop and use it for a few hours free of charge.

There is also potential for an iPod check out program, said Lori Mestre, Digital Learning librarian. Mestre helped plan and implement a Learning Commons at her previous institution.

Hinchliffe and Mestre said that throughout the past few years, they noticed that students were participating in group work more and more. After conducting focus groups around the campus to ask what the students wanted, the University found that students desired more collaborative spaces and better access to technology. Students’ comfort was taken into consideration in the project.

“We’ve begun doing tests with chairs and asking students what they think,” Hinchliffe said.

Kevin Caron, freshman in LAS, said he wants to see more technology in the library.

“(My friends and I) have come a couple of times and there haven’t been any computers available,” he said.

She said student feedback is critical to the success of this project.

Hinchliffe said phase two and phase three will be very flexible and heavily dependent on response received from phase one. A Student Advisory Board will be formed this fall in order to further connect with the student community.

In addition to the laptop checkout program and new furniture, phase one will create a new arrangement of shelving and will combine the three library assistance desks into one. Also, the Writer’s Workshop, which assists students with writing and composition skills, will expand and offer increased service to undergraduates.

“Our service philosophy is to be as accessible as possible,” Hinchliffe said. “We are really excited about this project.”