User-Centered Spaces

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As some of you may realize, in addition to working as the science librarian at Baylor, I’m taking classes towards my library degree.  We’ve been discussing innovative or renovated STEM libraries.  I am particularly interested in the Applied and Engineering Technology (AET) Library at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA).  I’m interested in this library because I am thinking about how the libraries at Baylor can have a presence in the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC).  I’m hoping to use information from the UTSA library websites, newspaper articles, what I remember from a tour during Summer 2011, and an IM chat with someone from the UTSA library as the basis for my discussion.

After a soft opening in June 2010, the AET library had its grand opening in Fall 2010 in converted labspace the Applied and Engineering Technology Building.  The most notable feature about the library is that it is bookless.  It is this aspect of the library that prompted an article about the library in Inside Higher Ed which was then picked up by both USA Today and the New York Times.

The emphasis of this library is to provide spaces that students will use.  Two large group study rooms seat six people and have 42″ LCD monitors and whiteboard and glass walls that students can write on.  A smaller study room seats four people and also has whiteboard and glass walls.  All study rooms can be reserved in advance and are available on a first-come basis if not reserved.  In addition to numerous personal study spaces for students with laptops are 10 public computers, a scanner, and a color printer.  White boards for individual use are also available throughout the library.

But a bookless library is not devoid of information.  The AET library has a reference desk that is staffed while the library is open by STEM student assistants who answer basic reference questions and refer more complex questions to either the science or engineering librarian.  These librarians also spend time in the library helping students.  In addition, all of the online journals, databases, and e-books available through UTSA libraries are also available at the AET libary.  The AET library even has a pilot e-reader program where 2 Kindles, 2 Sony e-readers, and 1 Nook which are pre-loaded with a number of STEM books.  Students can request that a book be bought and downloaded to the e-readers (although this has happened only once).

Because the AET libary is user focused, the librarians have made a number of changes even in the short time the library have been open.  Most of these changes are to encourage group work among students.  They have added stools to take advantage of the old lab benches that were original to the building; they decreased the number of overstuffed chairs that had very small attached desks; and they added more tables and white boards.

The AET library is an excellent example of a library that has made the most of the space they were given to serve users.  I would love to set up a similar space at Baylor in our new BRIC facility.

About Christina Chan-Park

Christina Chan-Park is currently the Science Librarian at Baylor University. She received her PhD in Geophysics from the University of British Columbia, MS in Information Science from the University of North Texas along with a Graduate Academic Certificate in Digital Curation and Data Management, MPA from the University of Houston, MS in Geophysics from Stanford University, and AB in Geology from Princeton University. She was previously a Visiting Assistant Professor and Program Director at the University of Houston a post-doctoral researcher at The Ohio State University. Like most librarians, she enjoys reading. But more than anything else she enjoys seeing other people succeed and helping them achieve their goals.
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