A study space - and a whole lot more

In spring 1961, the library staff, headed by Donald O. Rod, surveyed students to learn what they wanted in UNI's new campus library. Fifty-one years later, library staff, headed by dean of Library Services Christopher Cox, are asking students, faculty and staff to learn what they wanted in UNI's library.

Rod Library
In addition to being a place where students can study, the Rod Library is also a connection point where students can use technology, work on group projects and meet with faculty.

"Rod Library used to be a place to house materials and a place where students could study," said Cox. "The library still offers that, as well as being a connection point where students can use technology, work on group projects and meet with faculty."

Based on feedback from surveys and work by Rod Library's Learning Commons Task Force, Rod Library has been reconfigured, renovated and enhanced. The wall on the main (second) floor that blocked the view and traffic flow has been removed to showcase the open floor plan and the variety of resources the library offers. The reconfigured area revealed by that wall is the new Learning Commons, a student-centered physical and virtual learning space designed with openness, flexibility, comfort and practicality in mind.

The commons has four new tables for collaborative work, each with a 47-inch flat-screen TV with computer connection ports for displaying screen information; four double-sided mobile whiteboards to enhance idea sharing; moveable tables and chairs that can be reconfigured for group study and group project work; additional network wiring for greater online access; and more electrical outlets for charging phones, tablets and laptops. And the space continues to evolve.

"We want to change the mentality from 'I have to go to the library to get something' to 'I want to go to the library to increase my knowledge and work with others in an attractive, collaborate space,'" said Cox.

In fall 2013, students, faculty and staff can also access the new Digital Media Hub behind the main floor's reference desk. The hub will have laptops (Macs and PCs) and video cameras that can be checked out for use in the library. There will be space for digital editing and recording, and patrons can use the hub's green-screen technology to shoot videos in front of various backdrops for class projects.

"We are an extension of the classroom," said Cox. "This area will provide a gathering space, an intellectual space and an interdisciplinary dialogue space, all of which will complement the library's collections (the bound volumes found throughout the library)," said Cox.

More exciting changes are on the way. "We're talking with the Department of Residence about opening a café/coffee shop in spring 2014," said Cox. "Cafés and coffee shops reflect a national trend because students are often in the library for a long time. Instead of them leaving to get something to eat, they can eat right here in the library. A café/coffee shop would also provide an informal discussion space for students, faculty and administrators."

Until that time, patrons can have a café-like experience by using the Keurig brewing station in the library's lower level. For only $1.25 (just $1 with a self-provided cup), patrons can purchase K-Cup "pods" and enjoy some coffee or tea and grab a snack at the vending machines. Where did this idea come from? Once again, patron surveys.

The library is also working with Facilities Planning and OPN Architects to engage the campus in a broader conversation about library space, which will result in a long-range plan for future library renovations and enhancements.

"Getting feedback from those who use the library and those we want to use the library is the new normal," said Cox. "The way students, faculty and staff use the library is changing. We want to be responsive to their needs."

For those who haven't been to the library lately, come over and grab a coffee, a computer and a comfy chair. The library is the place to be!

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