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New University Libraries Encourage a More Social Experience

by on October 27, 2016

Universities across the country are changing the landscapes of their libraries.  Three years ago, when I began the MBA program at my undergrad alma mater, Northwest Nazarene University, it opened its remodeled library. I was flabbergasted by the changes. Gone was the traditional educational library in which I worked as a student for two years.  In fact, the only thing that remained of it was its skeleton, integrated into a mock-Tudor student union and study center hybrid. While I was one of many alumni who were thrilled at the changes, I also understood the need for them. The evolution in education delivery and also in students seeking higher education are necessitating these changes.

Collaborate . . . Quietly

As Pamela Avila writes for Eastsider L.A.’s “School Yard,” Cal State Los Angeles is transforming its main library building into a space that encourages a much more social experience.  For Cal State L.A.’s students, using the library will now be more like using a research center.

This full-scale remodel, which is not yet complete, is similar to what occurred at my alma mater. The first floor now “features sleek tables and couches that are easy to move around as needed.” This furniture change gives the library’s studying public a better chance at collaboration. Gone is the traditional study cubicle which typically litters higher education libraries and even public ones.  In its place are these new movable workspaces and a cafe, Cafe 47. Replacing the fear of spilling your coffee all over the library’s collection is encouragement to have a cappuccino, a snack, and some discussion over a research topic.

This modern library learning environment is also designed to allow students easier access to digital information and the technology to print out that information if they desire. This combination of the digital and the tangible sets up Cal State’s students for a more holistic learning experience.

Collaborate . . . Globally

Cal State L.A.’s remodel and the one that took place at my alma mater are great examples of brick-and-mortar libraries opening their collections to wider audiences by offering digital access. This is key for university and public libraries wanting to expand customer bases.

Years ago, Arizona State University began paving the way for students around the globe to learn and collaborate without leaving their homes. Its extensive library collections are available for online students who may or may not be able to walk into the building for research.

I can easily drive to both my university’s library and my neighborhood library.  However, the proliferation of digital databases and e-books in libraries has made this travel unnecessary. At the same time, changes in library environments such as Cal State L.A.’s encourage customers to travel to the building itself.

Despite digital libraries and e-book collections making research, personal or educational, easier, human beings also crave interaction with each other. We leave our comforts in order to socialize, and the library is no different. How often do book lovers get involved in heated debates over the top ten horror short stories of all time?

These discussions and learning opportunities are easier to participate in when we can see and hear our collaborators. Libraries that look to Cal State L.A. and others that have made these changes will be better equipped to encourage teamwork and multi-modal learning. Starting small could create a flood of new learners and customers, that’s why we have libraries.

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