Dangerous Liaisons - UW Libraries

February 13, 2017

Academic Libraries: Not Your Campus Living Room

Shannon Adkins

So, so sleepy...

Image by Clemson University Libraries, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In Project Information Literacy’s most recent Smart Talks, they speak with Joan Lippincott (Associate Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information) about physical library spaces and how they relate to teaching and active learning.  Spoiler alert: she even name-drops our very own Odegaard Library!

While the talk covers a wide range of topics, and is definitely worth a read in its entirety, I was struck by the reminder to think about the importance of place – every day.  We might not be planning a large scale redesign of a learning commons, but we are still often teaching and working with students in library spaces.  This is important!  How can we be intentional about where we instruct, and how we interact with a space as we teach?  It is a great reminder that perhaps our first question should not be, “Which room is available?” but we can instead ask ourselves which spaces might best facilitate the needs of the students we will see, and the skills we hope to teach.  Additionally, Joan suggests we include place in assessments we conduct, on a continual basis.  Perhaps these are other questions we could ask ourselves after an instruction session:

  • Did I make the best use of the space I had available today?
  • How could we have used this space in a more meaningful way?
  • How will I use this space differently next time?

To further pique your interest, I’ll leave you with a sneak preview of one of my favorite bits:

“[M]y concern [was] that if libraries, and specifically information or learning commons, were merely seen as the living room of the campus, they would have little direct relationship to the core mission of the university, namely teaching/learning and research.  I believe that libraries need to intentionally strengthen the ties of their spaces and services with the academic program.  I would prefer that libraries were known as the intellectual crossroads of the campus.”

“Joan Lippincott: Libraries as the Intellectual Crossroads of a Campus” (email interview), by Alison Head, Project Information Literacy, Smart Talk Interview, no. 26 (7 December 2016).