A quiet study carrel. An interactive conference room. An active learning classroom. A recording studio. A 3D printer. For today’s faculty and student body, all these share space in the academic sphere. Brian Mathews, in “Encoding Space” writes, “Buildings, especially libraries, are symbolic. They represent the intellectual character and aspirations of a college, university, or community” (Mathews & Soistmann, 2016). This is certainly true of our libraries.
For years, Learning Spaces and Media Services (LSMS) – a team within Library and Academic Technology Services (LATS) – has provided equipment and spaces for students to complete their academic work. With changes to the higher education landscape, LSMS’s work now extends well beyond computer labs and general software access. Particularly in the last four years, LSMS has designed creative spaces for students and faculty to enrich their academic experience.
In 2014, the team opened the Video Booth, a DIY video recording studio for campus-wide use. Professors use this space to record lectures for online courses. Students book the studio to complete creative assignments or practice presentations.
Following the successful launch of the Video Booth, LSMS widened the scope and opened the TechPoint Media Lab. This space adds two audio recording studios, editing stations, and an A/V equipment check-out program. Not only does the Media Lab give students access to complete media assignments, it fosters an atmosphere of collaboration and support.
“Each time a new technology enhances creative work, the libraries have an opportunity to evolve,” said David Burns, director of LSMS. “Libraries have always supported creativity, discovery, and inquiry, and adopting these emerging technologies is simply another step forward.”
This past spring marked one full year of operation for the TechPoint Media Lab. Between the Audio Booths and Video Booth, students and faculty recorded over 4,100 hours of use – that’s long enough to be open for 57 straight days! In total, the space booked over 2,200 projects and had 1,156 unique patrons.
While the numbers are impressive on their own, the Media Lab also received accolades from faculty members across disciplines, including Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Business. This widespread appeal indicates that the Media Lab supplies essential resources for advancing curriculum.
To supplement the Media Lab, LSMS plans to launch a makerspace in August. Whereas the Media Lab provides for audio and video projects, the makerspace will offer tools to make physical things. The Media Lab and makerspace are great examples of the library iterating on how its community interacts with information and engages in learning. “For example, a business entrepreneur may now research a market, ideate in a collaboration space, record a product pitch in the Media Lab and build a prototype in our makerspace,” said Andrew Telep, assistant director of LSMS. “Together, traditional and creative library spaces create a wider ecosystem for learning that helps our students and faculty make connections, solve problems and create.”
The library makerspace will facilitate 3D printing, CNC carving, laser cutting, and other analog prototyping. In the fall, the library will also debut free two-week memberships at the Maker’s Edge. Partnership with the Maker’s Edge in downtown Waco gives the Baylor community access to a fully-realized makerspace, supporting projects with wood, metal, textiles, pottery, electronics, and more.
Another component LSMS is working to implement into these creative spaces is Virtual Reality (VR). In the fall, the team started a pilot program inviting Baylor faculty and staff to experience VR. The program introduces faculty to immersive experiences, which they can incorporate into the classroom. “Our VR lab inspires professors to rethink class content and research,” said Tanner Osborn, academic consultant for LSMS. “Whether it’s orientation for a study abroad experience or designing a 3D model, VR fits into the workflows we’ve developed in our creative spaces.”
Students can work with VR by joining the Baylor VR Club. This student group has partnered with the libraries to develop a virtual environment to access the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project’s digital collection.
All of these resources – the Media Lab, the makerspace and VR – represent the future of libraries. Moving forward, LSMS aims to increase the use of these emerging technologies across campus. With LSMS’s expertise and support, the libraries continue to enable creativity, discovery, and inquiry.
“Our creative spaces have the power to transform how a student learns in our library,” said Telep. “The activities taking place here are analogous to the oldest and most central goals of the Baylor Libraries.”
This article originally appeared in the 2018 ITS & Libraries Magazine.