Sabbatical Proposal for Spring 2007 - Roger Williams University
Susan McMullen
Reference and Information Resources Librarian



The purpose of this sabbatical is to discover best practices for the development of a Learning Commons within the University Library. The Learning or Information Commons has become the new paradigm for service delivery in academic libraries.  This model functionally and spatially integrates library services, information technology services and media services to provide a continuum of services to the user, a blending of staff knowledge and skills, and referral to appropriate areas of expertise.  This new paradigm extends the boundaries of the Library’s information ecology and calls for a restructuring of services and physical and virtual space focused on the learning needs of our user community. This initiative will necessitate the development of new campus partnerships and collaboration for service delivery and governance.  By investigating the experiences of others, I will propose a course of action that will be informed by “best practices” and cognizant of the unique culture and requirements of the Roger Williams University community.


Description of Project:

This sabbatical will examine the Learning Commons model and other models for collaborative facilities throughout the country to determine best practices for design, implementation, and service.  Of particular focus will be academic libraries of similar size and focus that are working with existing library buildings to create new learning environments.  To accomplish the objectives of my sabbatical project, I will survey academic libraries with a Learning Commons or collaborative facility, examine available student learning outcomes, visit a sampling of institutions that have had more than two years of experience working with this type of blended service environment, and extensively review the literature.


Specifically this sabbatical will examine:


This sabbatical will offer me an opportunity to explore new ways for improving the quality and delivery of services to my user community.  It will give me a chance to interact with colleagues from the across the country and give me fresh insight for creating new partnerships for service delivery.  Although improving service to students and faculty is my first priority, I am also interested in expanding upon previous research I have done on libraries as information ecologies.  Particularly -- how does the restructuring of services and virtual and physical spaces effect the informational ecosystem of the library and focus on the learning needs of its community?

Relevance of the Project:    

The use of technology in higher education has had a profound effect on the ways students’ access, select, manipulate and produce scholarship.  Internet and digital technologies offer greater accessibility to electronic resources for research and allow for media-rich expression of ideas in scholarly and creative works.  The curriculum, with a new focus on collaborative learning and multidisciplinary study is driving students to work in different ways and placing an increased demand for the integration of library, technology, and media services.


This sabbatical will uncover best practices for the creation of collaborative campus partnerships that enhance teaching and learning. It will help the library, media services and information technology departments strategically develop a plan for governance and service delivery that will directly support recent changes in pedagogy and offer support for curricular innovation and renewal.                      



The end product of my research will be a plan for integrated service delivery of information and technology resources that support scholarly research and production and enhance teaching and learning at Roger Williams University.  Knowledge of best practices will help inform a course of action for creating a learning environment that meets the specific needs of this campus.  This plan will address the broadening of library services by building relationships with campus academic support units, cross-training of staff for a synergistic combination of research, technical, and production support, space utilization that accommodates collaborative learning and facilitates faculty/student research, and methodologies for assessing learning outcomes.


Other possible venues for presenting the research of this sabbatical would be the publication of a peer-reviewed article concerning the integration of an Information or Learning Commons into the information ecology of the library and/or web accessible documentation concerning best practices for integration of an Information Commons into an existing library building.