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Campus prepares to talk about library renovations

Posted on 12.11.2013

One component of Vision 2030 is the renovations for Krannert Memorial Library. Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli said that the renovations are in the planning stages and focus groups will happen next semester.

December 11 Issue

Library Director Matthew Shaw

Earlier this semester, President Robert Manuel held a focus group with students and asked them to lay out their ideas. Vitangeli said that in the focus group Manuel asked students what they would change to the library if it had to stay the way that it is now.
“I’m anticipating then that there’ll be more focus groups with faculty, staff and students to really talk about the library,” Vitangeli said. “That is kind of first on the list of the Vision 2030 things—to get going and get a process for what kind of changes will be done to the library.”
Library Director Matthew Shaw said that money has been allocated for the renovation and that a group has been formed to serve as a steering committee, but he thinks the process will be highly participatory.
“Really the library sort of serves the whole campus community and our faculty and our students. And also I think that the new library will also be serving our surrounding community,” he said. “So we want this to be a process that really re-imagines what we can do in the library to serve all of our constituents, and I think that our community is now part of that constituency.”
Shaw said that currently there is no specific projected timeline, but that this undertaking will require many months to complete.
“It’s going to be a long process. Of course, our challenge will be to continue to deliver services all throughout that process. It’s going to be a long time before it’s completed,” he said. “… It’s just so significant that it’s not going to be an eight-week affair. It’s not just going to be drapes and carpet.”
Shaw said that one of the things he will get to do as the library director is help shape the conversations around the changing role of  libraries in the realm of academics.
“Libraries in general are changing, but I think academic libraries are really undergoing some significant changes in as much as we still are wanting to be seen as the hub of information. But the way that we deliver that information has changed,” he said. “I think that we will have a smaller print presence [and] a much larger virtual presence.”
Shaw said that the library staff already has been working to have a larger virtual presence, but as the renovation process begins, the library will work aggressively to make more things available online.
“What that offers students, and faculty as well, is around-the-clock access,” Shaw said. “Because you don’t have to come into the library when it’s open to get to a resource when it’s available online. And you can log onto that from anywhere in the world. I do not think that value can be underestimated.”
However, Shaw said that KML will not be a library without books—a glorified computer lab.
“It should be a space that takes the very best of our print resources and the very best electronic sources and integrates those into an information environment that students and faculty can use to build other knowledge,” he said.
Shaw said that he expects that the value he will add will be that librarian’s perspective on where everything is going in terms of academic libraries.
“We’ve changed. We’re certainly no longer just about making sure that all the books are in order. It’s a lot different now,” he said. “The changes, I think, for the library are going to be transformative changes.  I think they are going to be significant changes, not just in the way that the place looks but what we do as a library.”
One thing Shaw said he wants to bring to the conversation is a real concern about making sure the library has spaces for students and faculty to study and learn. He said that the hope for the renovations is that the library will become a place for people to connect around information and create knowledge.
“I think what we’re really going to achieve here is, yes, we’ll have more technology; yes, we’ll have better furniture and all of that; but I think at the end of the day what we’re really looking for are spaces that invite people to participate in collaborative learning,” he said. “I see that as a student-student thing, a student-faculty thing and maybe a student-faculty-community thing. I think there’s something to be gained by bringing in our surrounding community to the library.”
Shaw said that many students’ greatest concern about the renovation is what will happen to the egg chairs.
According to Shaw, the egg chairs will probably be some of the few things that are preserved even through the library renovations.
“The egg chairs are cool. … They are sort of iconic. A lot of people associate them with the library,” he said. “It’s funny because I hear this on tours that people are giving… I always hear them mention the egg chairs as if that’s what we did for a living: we are the keepers of the egg chairs.”
Vitangeli said that students, faculty and staff should keep looking for when the upcoming focus groups will take place next semester.
“Certainly we want to make it [the library] a place that everybody wants to go,” she said. “If people feel like they have components of a new library that they want to share, [they need] to look for those focus groups coming up.”


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