- Slides: 29
Reallocating Paper Space to People Space ACRL/NY Symposium December 2, 2005 James Benson Vice Provost Dean of Information Resources & Libraries
Structure of the Presentation • The thesis • The basic consequences of thesis • More detailed arguments
The Thesis • The use of physical space in libraries has changed. • Virtual library space is rapidly becoming the primary location for individual information seeking by library users – in many fields of study, but not all • In consequence, many physical libraries in higher education are under used.
Physical Libraries Need to be Redesigned • The result of the change is the potential for a profound transformation in the use of information in physical libraries. – The use of physical space in libraries is changing to collaborative information use. We must, therefore, • transform storage space for paper-based library materials to collaboration enabling space for people. • bring users of paper-based resources closer to the paper that they use
Then! • In the past, many library users visited the library to identify, locate, and retrieve information for study or research. – Most worked alone, occasionally seeking assistance. – Most users wanted to get their stuff and leave, unless it wasn’t permitted outside of the library. – Study groups often use textbooks and class notes rather than library materials. – Commuters also read and studied in the library because it was available space, away from home, before, between, and after class.
Now! • These uses have not disappeared, – but the anytime, anywhere access to digital library materials have decreased substantially the frequency of these uses in the physical library. • Individual information seeking can be a lonely business whether in the physical library or the digital library, – but it seems a particularly lonely enterprise in the virtual space of a digital library.
Virtual Space Preferred for Individual Information Seeking • The availability of information in virtual space, whether – “free” content on the internet and/or – information paid for by the library • has eliminated the need for the physical library as a preferred space – for individual information seeking.
Any Time, Any Where Access is Expected • Where ever you are, when ever you are, – if you have a computer and an internet connection you can probably access the information • that you need or • that has been assigned for class. – If you can’t, you will probably pass on retrieving it
Ubiquitous Computing • The student with a wireless laptop has the world’s libraries at his or her beck and call. – As a result, some university libraries are emptying out. There are many fewer people using their physical space.
Not Just Libraries • Virtual space is not only transforming libraries. • More and more of our – work, – study, and – play • has become virtual.
Privacy? • For many of us, – virtual space can be a much desired form of privacy, – even when we and our computer are in a crowded room. • we can often ignore everyone else.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Computer • For others virtual space is a lonely cave.
Seeking Contact • Whether we respond positively or negatively to virtual space, for many of us, – Face-to-face human contact becomes more precious as we spend more of our time in virtual space. – When not there, we may expect and need human contact. – But we may not cope well with face-to-face contact
Collaborative Information Use • As the problems experienced in the world of work have become more complex – [requiring effective team work in order to solve those problems] and • as work, study, and play have become more and more virtual – [providing less direct human contact], – employers have begun to prize workers able to work together effectively.
Collaboration Required • Universities are advised by their alumni and employers – to teach students how to collaborate. • In response, – Universities have begun to emphasize assignments that require collaboration.
Collaborative Work • These assignments often require that students collectively – evaluate, – analyze, and – present information.
Seeking Faces • These tasks too can be accomplished virtually, – But since face-to-face contact can be precious – these assignments can become a reason to • meet and • work together. • But more than work happens!
Seamlessness • Play, • work, and • study become – seamless, – undifferentiated.
Why the library? • Library space for such collaboration is sought frequently by students. – The technology is there. – The space is there. – Assistance with information problems is there.
Why not the library? • Some libraries provide environments that encourage work and social interaction. – Remember, for the virtual generation, • work, • study, and • play – are seamless.
Balancing the needs of the group and the individual seeking more contemplative space is difficult • Some libraries make group work unwelcome. – [with its noise, its mixture of social and work elements, its pre-emption of quiet study space] • Many libraries overbalance to one approach or the other. • Those University Libraries that overbalance to the individual are today – often essentially empty for large portions of the semester.
The Ideal • Ideally, we serve both – the individual seeking a space for quiet study, and – the group seeking space to use information collaboratively.
Competing Needs • Any library built before 1995 [and some built after] probably does not have people space balanced between these needs. • Most libraries dedicate most of their square footage to the storage of paper-based information resources. • In order to rebalance their people space more effectively, libraries need to create more people space. • That people space needs to accommodate the competing needs of the individual and the group.
Change the Balance • That typically means a radical change in the balance of use of people space. • We need lots of group space and less individual study space, and • The individual study space needed must be of better quality than that provided by a large reading room with dingy tables, chairs, walls, and lighting.
People Space in Libraries • The group space must accommodate differing sizes of groups, differing collective purposes, and some of it must be outright social. • We must signal to students a changed orientation. • Spaces that notably signal the approval of social interaction in the library are essential – To signal that the seamless pattern of work, study, and play is understood, • Spaces like cafes send such a signal.
Leveling the Information Use Playing Field for Users of Paper-based Information Resources • While university libraries are in the midst of a transformation, the change is not complete. – Many fields of study still need to use paper-based information resources. – These faculty and students are at a distinct disadvantage to their brethren in more digitally oriented fields. • Their access to information is constrained by distance and time. – They must go to the library. – They are limited by library hours.
Accomodations are needed • The virtual user of digital information can access their library resources any time, any where. • To level the playing field for users who mostly use paper-based and micro-film based information resources, – university libraries may need to make special accommodations for these users. – we must begin integrating these users’ work homes into the library.
What do users of paper need • Such a move is more than simply bringing faculty offices into the library. • It means – placing their most used materials adjacent to their work homes. • planning for many of these resources to be become virtual – providing information assistance adjacent to their work homes. – creating collaborative spaces that facilitate the shared use of paper-based materials.
How! • We can replace paper space with people space, • Tactics include: – Moving underutilized materials to remote storage – Using compact shelving – Weeding. • We need the people space! It is essential for our future.