|The Learning Commons
Determining Best Practices for Design, Implementation, and Service
Information Commons and Learning Commons Site Visits
Elon University, located in Elon, North Carolina, is a comprehensive university with both majors in the arts and sciences and professional programs. They have approximately 5000 undergraduates, 380 graduate students, and 290 full-time faculty members. The library has roughly 265,000 volumes with 25 staff members including 12 librarians. Although their building design reflects the Information Commons concept throughout its spaces, they prefer to call it "The Library" since the facilities and services promoted by the Information Commons model are fundamental to today's library buildings and services. The Belk Library is an inviting space with plenty of natural light from a central elliptical skylight and many arched windows throughout. There are a variety of spaces for technology use, study, and reading. The low shelving utilized on the first floor opens the view all the way to the back windows of the library. The use of cherry wood in the computer furniture, desks, and stack end panels coupled with the use of soft colors in blue, green, and yellow provide a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
A library floor plan is available at http://www.elon.edu/e-web/library/libraryinfo/map.xhtml
Description of Services and Facilities
The primary technology commons area is located on the first floor surrounding the centrally located Information Desk. The Information Desk is staffed by a librarian and a technology assistant to handle both research and computer related questions. This integrated service desk model has been very successful at Elon. This first floor is designed to be active space and create a certain amount of noise from students socializing and collaborating on group projects. There are 148 computers throughout the building with additional data and electrical outlets on tables and in carrels.
Other library service points surround the commons area and are easily visible from almost any location on the first floor. These service areas include Circulation, Media Services, and the Copy Center. Media Services is one arm of the Instructional Technology Services department which includes Event support, television support, and media services. They check out laptops, data projectors and other equipment and offer a very popular media production service to the campus community.
Tutoring Services, The Writing Center, The Instructional Design and Development Department (IDD), and The Student Technology Center are also located on the first floor.
The Student Technology Center offers high end multi-media and digital equipment for students to use in creating scholarly digital productions. This lab is staffed by elite students from the Instructional and Campus Technologies Department. It is a prestigious job for which students must interview and compete. These elite students work with students needing assistance in the lab on an individual basis.
The Instructional Design and Development Department (IDD) has 8 offices and a faculty lab off from the first floor of the library. IDD staff help faculty integrate technology into traditional and online classroom environments. They offer a variety of workshops, work with faculty in their lab located in the library, or more frequently go to the faculty member's office to provide assistance. A complete list of their services can be found at http://www.elon.edu/technology/idd.htm Though located in the library, IDD staff work for Instructional and Campus Technologies.
The IDD faculty lab can also be used as an overflow from the Student Technology Center located next door.
There are 21 group study rooms throughout the library equipped with data and electrical outlets and white boards. Elon has found a greater need for more, smaller sized group study rooms so they plan to divide a few of their larger group study rooms. There is also a larger seminar room that can be reserved for group use. When not reserved, it is available for anyone to use but it is not scheduled for regular academic classes.
A Library classroom located on the first floor is surrounded by windows. The windows are really wonderful for publicizing the availability of library instruction and for making the room freely available to students when not being used for instruction. There is a second library classroom/computer lab located on the second floor for students wishing to get away from the noise and social activity on the first floor.
The new Library was part of the university's strategic planning process to strengthen the academic climate on campus.
Although the Library and Instructional and Campus Technologies departments are not merged, the Library Director and the CIO have adjacent offices on the second floor and a successful partnership. The computer consultants/technology assistants working at the Information Desk are part of the I&CT staff and are trained by them.
Collaboration and Partnerships
The strength of their collaboration with Instructional & Campus Technologies has greatly benefited library services. The computer consultants working at the Information Desk help students with Blackboard issues, computer software and hardware issues and printer problems. Although the Library, IDD, the Writing Center, Media Services, etc. report to different departments & VPs organizationally, they all work very closely together and offer a unified service delivery point to their users. They also collaborate on a number of different projects and workshops, i.e. a recent Copyright workshop had presenters from both the Library and IDD.
One very interesting partnership exists with the Athletics department. The Library provides an area on the second floor for an Athletic Structured Study. A staff member from the Athletic department is there to help athletes with their homework.
Impact on Collections
They have off-site storage for materials that are infrequently used. All materials can be retrieved within 24 hours.
Reference and Instruction
All librarians provide reference support from the Information Desk. Over 200 library instruction classes are taught each year. Every class must have a course-related assignment.
Observations Informing Best Practices
Roger Williams University, Sabbatical
Project - Spring 2007