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by Greta Petry (October 5, 2006)

The Information Commons: The New Go-To Place on Campus

Philip Ayoreh and Tom Keegan work with Kristina Zaccardo and Elise Martin in the new Information Commons in the Science Library.

Philip Ayoreh and Tom Keegan work with Kristina Zaccardo and Elise Martin in the new Information Commons in the Science Library. The Commons opened this fall.

Imagine: You are a student with a big research project that is due in one week -- and you have so much research yet to do. Where can you find all the resources you need?

There's a new solution on campus for challenges of this kind. It's called "Information Commons" and it's located on the first floor of the Science Library.

Here, in one place, students can find both the wealth of research materials available in University Libraries and the technology that's essential for producing first-rate projects. Reference librarians and Information Technology Services (ITS) Student Technology Consultants are on hand to provide their assistance.

Information Commons is equipped with 60 new computers, as well as cluster desks, in the back of the bright space, where groups can get together to fine tune a Power Point demonstration or collaborate in others ways. Upstairs, on the second floor, are nine group study rooms.

The newly-designed space represents the melding of research and technology in a center that supports and enhances student learning.

"We invite all students, faculty, and staff, no matter what your academic field, to use our facilities, resources, and services," said Frank D'Andraia, the dean and director of the University Libraries.

A collaborative effort between the University Libraries and ITS, the Information Commons was created after development team members checked out similar spaces at Binghamton University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in their search for best practices.

"We had to do a lot on a very tight budget and within a short time frame," D'Andraia said, adding the new space had to be ready to open by the start of the academic year.

According to Information Commons development team members Barbara Via and Carole Sweeton, the shared responsibility has led to increased cooperation between the Libraries and ITS.

"We've always worked together," said Via, assistant director of the Division of Graduate and Science Libraries and Circulation, "but combining the services of both our organizations made us realize just how much more we are able to offer." Sweeton, director of Client Support Services, agrees. "On one level, you could always get reference help from the Libraries and tech support from ITS," she said. "But in the Information Commons, you don't need to make that distinction. All the resources are already there. It is easier to get support, and it's a lot more user friendly."

The new space offers students a more spacious and comfortable user room with the same software found in the user rooms and the "smart" classrooms. And, it helps to replace LC 4, one of two traditional public user rooms in the LCs. LC 4 was closed in June for renovation into needed classroom space. At the same time, 20 kiosks have been added to the LC area so that students can quickly check their e-mail and have Internet access. But the computers in the Information Commons are located in an improved space, with new equipment and more of it. Student technicians answer questions and troubleshoot printing and software problems.

D'Andraia describes the new space as a "work in progress." More software, like Adobe Pro, which is used to produce PDFs, has been ordered, as well as a scanner. In addition, more chairs and two more "half-pod" tables for group study are on their way. These additions will make it easier for students to work together. Later in the fall semester, wireless enabled laptop computers will be available for students to check out and use anywhere in the building.

"It's all part of our effort to build a 'brick and click' library environment for students," D'Andraia said. "This allows us to remain competitive with our peers and to emulate our aspirational peers. Our students are learning skill sets that are transferable to the job market. And it is attractive to parents and potential students to see that the Libraries and ITS are putting students first."

D'Andraia said the Libraries will continue to monitor use of the new space and will seek feedback from students on improvements.

The Information Commons is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday; from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday; and from noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday.


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