|The Learning Commons
Determining Best Practices for Design, Implementation, and Service
Information Commons and Learning Commons Site Visits
Bucknell University is a highly selective, private liberal arts school located in central Pennsylvania. They serve a FTE of 3500. The library houses 750,000 volumes. As a merged unit, ISR (Information Services and Resources) has a staff of 80+ staff members with 10 librarians. The integrated nature of their work calls for many information service professionals. Information about ISR services and its staff, including strategic planning documents, vision and values, ISR publications, a staff directory, news and events, and A Guide to Working in ISR's Collaborative Work Environment can all be found at http://www.bucknell.edu/x9394.xml
The success of their merger has been achieved through a staff-driven re-organizational plan that involved numerous workshops, activities, retreats, and meetings to develop a collaborative work environment with a shared vision and values statement. (http://www.bucknell.edu/x9601.xml) This collaborative vision and values drives their organization and puts customer service at its core.
Bucknell offers a highly integrated approach to the Collaborative Building environment. They don't necessarily refer to their facilities as an "Information Commons", rather they see their staff, facilities and resources as an integral package of customer service to their faculty, students, and staff. They continue to evolve and shift services and staff job descriptions as necessary to meet the needs of their users. To learn more about the services they offer to Faculty and Students see their pdf guides located at http://www.bucknell.edu/Documents/ISR/About/07_ISR_Fac_Guide.pdf and http://www.bucknell.edu/Documents/ISR/About/07_ISR_Fac_Guide.pdf
Description of Services and Facilities
There are three primary service points on the Main Level of the Library -- Circulation Services (including Equipment loan), the Technology Support Desk and Reference Services. The desks are all in sight line with one another and in full view as one enters the library, so the user's choices for help are easily visible. With the action verbs that they use for signage (Borrow, Return, Ask), it is clear to the user which desk can meet his/her need. If one drew a line between the three of them it would form a triangular shape. The Circulation Desk is closest to the front door. Located between the Circulation and the Technology Support desks is a very popular cafe.
The Reference desk offers two different heights - a counter height for student workers and quick reference and a lower desk height for librarians to work on projects and do research consultations.
The Technology Support Desk is designed to support three levels of support -- face to face, telephone, and inner offices for staff working on projects.
One of the most basic reasons for the three separate service points is simply that there is so much to learn at any one service desk. Staff, especially student workers with limited work schedules, could not possibly learn everything needed to provide excellent customer service.
The Technology Courtyard is primarily located behind and to the sides of the service support desks.
Adjacent to this computer workstation area is a
large area designed for multi-media authoring and collaborative work.
This area is directly behind the Technology Support Desk. Each area is
quite large and has space for 4-5 people.
In this Commons area, they have also created seating for Cafe use, group discussion, and media viewing. It is a very popular area for students to meet one another, work on projects, and enjoy a cup of coffee. The media viewing alcoves have built in TV/DVD/Video players and comfortable seating.
Near the Technology Support Area is the Advanced Technology Lab. This is a small space that is used to resolve hardware and network issues. The Technology Support desk serves as the triage service point for this behind-the-scenes support area.
There is a Teaching Learning Center available for faculty, however it is tucked away and down a long hall. Staff working here wish it could be more accessible to their users.
The second floor not only houses the periodical collection but has room for students to work on collaborative projects with large display screens.
Bucknell believes strongly in the power of communication in making their collaborative process work. They even have a Communications Steering Group. They hold weekly meetings for staff -- "Thursdays at 10:00" All staff are required to go to meetings and participate. They also use email and a blog.
Impact on Collections
To make more room for computer and multi-media workstations, the reference collection has been reduced by nearly 60%. They have gotten rid of all print indexes and index counters.
Reference & Instruction Services
They are looking at ways to re-design reference, looking at more flexibility at the reference desk. Any staff member in ISR, who has an interest, may serve on the reference desk with proper training. They acknowledge the need to get past the attitude that only librarians can do certain jobs.
Instruction and collection development are provided through departmental liaisons.
Bucknell offers many services through its web site. They have a "Right Answers" knowledge base that is available through a student login. They have an ECare program for technology support, they offer web instruction, email and chat reference, and have a My Library feature in the university's Campus Portal. Options for technology support are offered at (http://www.bucknell.edu/x9601.xml)
Bucknell does have an Assessment Team which collects data, administers surveys, has a student advisory group, and forms other focus groups as necessary. This team creates an awareness of assessment within ISR and pulls things together to share with others. They have completed standard survey instruments such as LibQual and MISO.
Observations Informing Best Practices