Notes from a presentation on library spaces by Keith Webster

Jun 03 2015 Published by under libraries

My larger place of work (the major research institution of which my lab is a part) has an annual assembly of library folks from all the various libraries and hospital libraries. We almost always have interesting speakers. This year we had Keith Webster, the Dean of University Libraries at Carnegie Mellon University. I hope he will put his slides on SlideShare as the pictures are important for understanding his meaning. I tweeted some key points - as fast as I could on my phone.  I'll incorporate those here with some remembered details and minor edits of typos:

 

For STEM, we have been successful in getting most of the stuff they want online. When they come in, it's to complain that something isn't working or they couldn't figure out how to get what they want


I found this point to be obvious, but important. If you think of what we do with scientists who leave now and them donating papers and computers and disks and whatnot to archives... And historians of science and even people with IP disputes looking through these... What happens when these working papers and data are distributed through new cloud services, each with (or without) its own preservation strategy? There's no automatic institutional access or backup if something happens to the scientist.


This is also obvious but important. I think with the informationist and embedding models we're getting at this. We aren't really about policing access to physical collections (if we ever were). Connecting people to information has to be as a partner in the research and teaching enterprise.

He then went through generations of spaces. The first was basically the monks and books chained to desks. Then there were closed stacks and reading rooms. Then open stacks but still mediated by librarians. ....

Somewhere in here more things started to be moved to offsite storage for more computers in more places and staff being moved around. First it was less used, then it was basically everything.


He had a great picture for this. It was better than this picture:
panopticon

More should be said about the roving. When they disestablished the reference desk, they had librarians roving to answer questions. The students did. not. like. at all. They felt like they were being followed and tracked. So the library stopped the service after a matter of weeks.


Also a neat point. As the classrooms are "flipped" and education has gone from lecture mode with exams to project based and group work based, the library needs to update its support. Instead of a single session at the beginning of the semester, it's partnership throughout. From what I hear from my academic colleagues, they have mostly done this already as long as the faculty will let them.


I still think this is a valid question for us to ask. Why should the library provide unattended study space with no books? Should that be student services or someone else? He said that their surveys consistently showed that the students wanted this service from the library. The library was known as a place to support serious work.

Seriously - when you're there for 8 hours and you can't leave your stuff because it will be stolen... Food? Lockers? Nicer potties? Sleeping space?

This is what they wanted: Qantas first class lounge Sydney 1


Another valid question: why should the libraries provide maker spaces? The disciplines provide them but often have higher quality industrial machines with lots more training needed. They may not be open to dabblers. The library is a neutral ground where historians can model artifacts, etc.

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