The collegiate library of the future will be accessible to students at all times, offer learning materials in a variety of mediums and provide a comfortable space for students to gather, according to a symposium of library and higher-education specialists AU hosted Monday and Tuesday.
Experts in Symposium 2010 imagined an ideal college library five years from now that caters to the “digital student,” said University librarian Patricia A. Wand, who organized the event. But the library must accommodate users at all levels of technological ability with instruction on how to “cope in the information-rich world.”
The participants included experts in education-related fields from many universities and organizations, as well as members of the video game community at AU. Lisa Pickoff-White, a senior in the School of Communications and avid gamer, has previously worked at Bender Library. She met with the panel of specialists to offer a student’s perspective.
She would like to see more technology offered in libraries, including educational video games. Pickoff-White said games like “Oregon Trail” and “SimCity” had educational value for younger students, so more sophisticated games or simulations can be useful for college students too.
“Others and I agreed universities need to use new media to reach out to students,” she said.
Joan Lippincott, associate director of the Coalition for Networked Information, said educational games are different from those played for leisure.
“Think of ‘simulation’ as the operative word, instead of ‘game,’” she said. Lippincott gave the example of a game for ecology students that lets users react to pollution scenarios and make decisions about how to contain contaminants and protect the environment.
It’s important to make sure games are relevant to learning, she said.
Lippincott said she would also like to see more connection between simulation games and other resources. According to Lippincott, games offer a lot of promise because they “engage students actively.”
Pickoff-White said in addition to considering more gaming opportunities, libraries should promote the technology they already have and make it user-friendly. The Bender Library Web site isn’t intuitive, she said, and could be made more accessible.
Many students, she said, don’t even know that the library has more than 100 databases and the opportunity to chat live with a librarian.
While some technology is ready to be adopted by libraries, the panel agreed that not all are successful. Trends like Web logs might not take off at libraries.
“You could create [a blog,] but I don’t know if anyone would read it,” said John Richardson, director of AU’s Center for Teaching Excellence and a professor in the School of International Service. Richardson, a faculty member who lives in Anderson Hall, keeps his own blog.
Even with vast databases and other technology, a library still needs books, the group agreed.
“The library has to be a multitude of different places,” for different types of learners, said Nancy Davenport, executive director of the Council on Library and Information Resources.
“There are those that say, ‘Everything is digital, why do you need a library?’” she said.
Wand said the layout of a facility can make a difference. Details like the configuration of the desks can impose a “hierarchy,” she said, making library users feel intimidated by the librarians sitting behind the desks. The library should be a “learning commons” designed to be inviting.
Wand said the panel’s focus was on efficiency and “how important it is for the learner to come to one place and find all the information he or she needs. ... The user just wants to find it under one roof when he or she needs it.”
The draft of the Symposium 2010 report will circulate in early April and be reviewed by members of the Washington Research Library Consortium, the University Library Group and other peer university libraries. Input from these groups will help to define the final report.
The symposium comes as AU begins setting a five-year plan for the library in the next few months. Wand said the library will “take this report and use it as the launching pad for our strategic planning for the library. ... This will be part of our vision.”