New library construction hopes to foster collaborative work

With shiny steel beams, large wooden arcs and the occasional buzz of a power drill, remodeling in the Hege Library is well underway. If you have visited the Hege Library any time recently, you have most likely seen the construction and renovation going on near the Reference Desk on the building’s main floor.

What you probably do not know is that the space, formerly home to offices and reference books, will soon house two new technology-infused workspaces for group work and even teleconferencing.

“The stations will have the ability to display the work of multiple computers at one time,” said Director of Hege Library Leah Dunn of the LCD television–equipped spaces. “We’re working to equip one with a camera. That could be used for teleconferencing.”

A bulletin with the intended layout of the area stands in front of the reference desk near the construction. Of the spaces currently being constructed, one room will serve as a traditional office. Two other spaces will act as the “collaborative high-technology hubs,” as described by James Parrigin, information literacy librarian.

The renovations will also expand the number of workstations in the library’s existing ePortfolio Design Lab, located in the building’s basement, according to a Hege Library press release about the construction.

 Dunn said that the current renovations and additions are about “how the library can serve current and future needs.”“The library design is a 1980s plan geared for a very print-oriented library,” said Dunn. “We know today that’s not the nature of our collections or how students work. It’s about how we can adapt.”

The new workstations on the library’s main level will be glass-paneled, allowing for visibility to the rest of the library while preventing group work from disturbing other visitors. The new work spaces are about offering a specific location for collaborative work apart from the rest of the library.

“Instead of gathering around in an open area where it might disturb someone, students could instead use these stations,” said Steve Carraway of Burkhead Carraway Construction, the firm contracted by the college to build the new rooms.

“There’s a need for group and individual study areas … With the current library design, it’s kind of all one big open space, and anyone doing one of those types of study ends up disturbing the other,” said Dunn.

“We’re doing everything we can to turn (the library) into a social space,” said Parrigin. “Especially given the writing-intensive nature of the college, students need a space to exchange ideas and work corroboratively.”

In the press release, Dunn said, “Student engagement is a critical part of the college’s strategic long-range plan, and this space will go a long way in supporting this goal.”

Early college student Sulaimon Kassim can already visualize his use of the new workstations.

“I could see myself going there, especially for group presentations,” said Kassim. “The available technology would allow for better visuals and practice of group presentations.”

Kassim added that librarians have already begun promoting the spaces to visitors when speaking about library resources.

The funds needed for the technology that will be used in these new spaces came from a Library Services and Technology Act grant awarded to Hege Library this past July. Funding for the construction, however, has come specifically from Friends of the Library funds.

Parrigin and Dunn both speak highly and optimistically of the project in the hopes of better serving library visitors.

“We’re really excited to have the opportunity to improve our services and especially respond to what our patrons are telling us are important to them,” said Dunn.

Both Carraway and Dunn said that, according to the current timeline, the spaces should be available for student use by March 1. At least initially, the new workstations will be open to students and groups on a walk-in basis.