When Moody Memorial Library opened in 1968, it served a variety of needs, chief among them being space for an expanding collection and to address a lack of study space for students. Four floors of stacks, carrels, classrooms and study spaces came online that fall and the library quickly become the hub of academic life on campus.
But just as it replaced a library designed for a previous century’s needs, Moody has now seen a half-century of change occur within its walls and, as importantly, in the ways Baylor’s student body utilizes the resources it provides. The rise in online resources and digital content has led to a reduction in circulation of physical resources like books, and students are asking for more spaces that meet their needs for individual study, group study and classroom instruction.
To address that last need, the Baylor Libraries initiated an ambitious project to renovate a space behind the first floor circulation desk – previously home to “back of the house” services like cataloging and acquisitions – into a modern, flexible classroom space. Plans to repurpose the square footage had been in the whiteboard phase for some time, but momentum began to build after a $100,000 grant was secured from the Moody Foundation in 2017. (The gift was made by the same foundation that provided the seed money to finance Moody’s construction in the mid-1960s.)
A planning team was assembled to discuss the best way to provide a flexible, adaptable, and technology-rich space for use by campus stakeholders. It became obvious early on that a “flipped classroom” approach was preferred, which would mean a space that focused on encouraging feedback and direction from attendees in the room, as opposed to the traditional, instructor-led classroom. Another essential feature determined for the space was the presence of ample technological assistance in the form of mobile work stations (dubbed “pods”) and large, fixed projectors for major presentations. Lastly, the planning team chose to emphasize lightweight, flexible furniture that allowed the space to be infinitely configurable to fit a wide range of usage needs.
The work to transform 104 began in earnest during the Spring 2018 semester, with crews demolishing several small offices and a storage room that were built into the larger footprint of the space during a previous renovation. From there, doors in the main wall were filled in, a new main entrance was created, and a room was built to house the server and mobile technology hub. New ceiling tiles, carpet, and paint were the final touches, transforming a dated, 50-year-old area into a modern, updated space in a matter of months.
The area was named the Moody 104 Active Learning Lab (ALL) to signify its purpose as an agile space designed for experimentation and instruction by users of any discipline. The Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) was the first group to put the ALL through its paces with its Summer Faculty Institute. The ATL needed a space to host its month-long series of training sessions aimed at developing the skills of Baylor’s community of instructors and researchers, and the ALL fit the bill. Future uses for the space could include classroom instruction, staff training, student meetings and library events such as presentations, lectures, symposia and more.
John S. Wilson, interim dean of libraries, has seen the transformation of Moody 104 over a 30-plus year career with the Baylor Libraries, and he quickly realized the importance of bringing a space like the ALL to Moody. “Increasingly, our users are looking for the kind of utility offered by Moody 104 but they aren’t finding it elsewhere on campus. We see the Libraries as a crucial component to Baylor’s academic success, and this space is one way we’re committed to providing the tools and resources our faculty, staff and students need to be successful.”
The creation of the ALL is just part of a long-range vision for the transformation of Moody’s first floor, but it marks an important step toward a revitalization of the mid-century building’s long-term importance to Baylor. And as new ideas and funding sources are developed in the coming years, the Libraries are committed to keeping Moody Memorial Library at the heart of the university’s efforts to reach Tier 1 research institution status.
This article originally appeared in the 2018 ITS & Libraries Magazine.