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Information Commons Reflects Library Space Shifts

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April 19, 2005

Northwestern faculty and students have access to a new space in University Library designed to integrate information, technology, and learning called Information Commons.  Located just inside University Library’s Lantern entrance, it is filled with computer workstations offering faculty and students support in the use of computer applications and ever-expanding digital resources. 

The space is designed to encourage collaboration, group and independent study, and greater interaction with library and technology staff. The concept of the Information Commons has become popular with universities as more information is published in electronic formats and is accessible to students remotely.

“With the dramatic increase in digital library information that is accessible remotely, use of Library space shifts from required to optional,” says David Bishop, Charles Deering McCormick University Librarian. “Increasingly, faculty and students are in the Library because they want to be. We view the Information Commons as a ‘one-stop-shopping’ area where users can learn to locate and manipulate information.”

“The new library space was designed specifically to draw students and faculty to the library and provide an environment for teamwork, a sense of community and easy access to professional library staff,” says Academic Technologies director Bob Taylor.

It houses more than 50 workstations equipped with software including Microsoft Office, EndNote, and RefWorks. Computer workstations are located at the center of the commons, with access to three printers, and equipped with flat-screen monitors, USB plug-ins, and CD burners that can read DVDs. Additional software and equipment will be considered as student needs expand.

The space is designed with considerable flexibility to encourage student interaction and discussion. Tables are arranged to let students work independently but remain within easy communication of other members of a project team. Laptop and wireless data connections are available throughout the area.

University Library and Academic Technologies share responsibility for staffing Information Commons.  Library staffers take the lead with research questions and provide assistance with digital library resources. Academic Technologies staff work primarily with product applications.

“The library today is more than a place to study or a warehouse of printed materials,” says Frank Cervone, assistant University librarian for information technology. “An academic library serves a critical role as a community hub within the university. Information Commons is an extension of this role.”

An April ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the commons area included remarks from University Library’s Bishop, Provost Lawrence B. Dumas and Morteza A. Rahimi, vice president and chief technology officer.