Retreat helps generate ideas for library

If you tried to access the University Library on May 4, you would have found the doors locked – and for good reason. Every year at this time, the library closes its doors for a one-day staff retreat. This year, the library administration team brought in speakers from the University of Victoria, University of Alberta and Edmonton Public libraries to talk about new initiatives they have recently undertaken that may prove useful here at the U of L.

For example, the University of Victoria underwent major renovations recently, turning the main floor of the McPherson Library into the C.W. Lui Learning Commons. The idea of a learning commons is one that is catching on in many academic libraries worldwide, as institutions try to better serve the needs of today's students.

For most, it means a change from a collection-centric model of the library to a more learning-centric model – making the library into a central hub of learning on campus. At Victoria, they created partnerships with several other campus units, such as the Writing Centre, Systems, the Teaching & Learning Centre, Career Services, Peer Help and other subject-specific tutoring services, giving them all space in the commons. It thereby makes the area a one-stop shop for students in need of any kind of help, be it research, technological or otherwise.

As well, a media commons was also developed, where students are able to borrow laptop computers, video cameras and other equipment in addition to using multimedia stations where they can create and edit audiovisual projects.

Meanwhile, the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) and the University of Alberta (U of A) libraries have entered into a unique relationship whereby the EPL has established a satellite branch in one of the libraries on the U of A campus.

Called eplGO, the 1,500 square foot space houses approximately 8,000 high-use materials from the public library, including fiction and non-fiction books, DVDs and CDs which patrons can borrow using their existing U of A library card (on an opt-in basis). The branch has proven to be very popular and has seen high circulation numbers since opening in November 2008.

The University of Alberta has also introduced an integrated service desk model. Rather than having separate reference and circulation desks, the U of A has opted to have one service desk, staffed by both librarians and technicians. This allows library users the ability to ask for research help and check out materials all in one location. It is a concept the U of A has been rolling out at all of its campus libraries and has been well received by students, staff and faculty.

The success of these initiatives provides interesting food for thought for our own operations, as we look to better serve our University community in the future.

Nicole Eva is a professional librarian in the University Library