University, college libraries create new spaces to stimulate learning

Contact: Larra Clark


ALA News Release

For Immediate Release

December 2001

University, college libraries create new spaces to stimulate learning

Universities and colleges are investing in their future by funding new library buildings and library projects, expansions and renovations. More than 50 building projects have been completed in the last two years, reflecting an investment of about $500 million. As they build new physical and virtual spaces for students and faculty, libraries are finding new roles and opportunities on campus.

"While there are still plenty of books, we are creating spaces more inviting to study, group work and student-faculty interactions," said Mary Reichel, president of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is one of many academic libraries using words like "information commons" and "collaborative learning center" to describe new environments that allow students, faculty and librarians to connect in new ways. Through hundreds of computer workstations and even more dataports scattered throughout the library, UNLV merges physical community and the latest technology.

Next year, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.)-based Nova Southeastern University will open the state's largest library, which will house 20 electronic classrooms with workstations equipped with Dell computers, ISDN lines for compressed video and large overhead monitors.

Denver's Regis University recently renovated its library to include individualized study spaces, small group study areas and a parent-child room, all wired for the Internet. And Indiana's Valparaiso University has begun a $75 million campaign, of which $30 million will be used to construct a new library and information resources center. The projected 100,000-square-foot facility would nearly double the size of the 40-year-old library.

"In my own part of the world, North Carolina and Tennessee schools have just built or renovated at least six academic libraries," said Reichel, who is the library director at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. "Libraries are being used heavily - in person and online. Breakthroughs in research happen when scholars collaborate at the library."

Collaboration also is key for librarians carving out new and expanded roles in their academic communities. The volume of information available on the web has led some students to believe that if a resource can't be found online, it doesn't exist. This mistaken idea, coupled with concerns about the reliability of information on the net, and the potential for plagiarism from online sources, has lead faculty and librarians to team up to teach information literacy skills.

"Information literacy is critical if students are to prosper in today's global information society," Reichel said. "Librarians are essential for teaching students how to be information smart and find quality information that will help them through school, work and life."

At Kentucky's University of Louisville (UL), librarians provide about 500 sessions of curriculum-integrated information literacy instruction each year to more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Librarians are strengthening distance learning options for students of all ages by making information resources available online and providing services such as online tutorials, 24/7 reference, virtual tours and cyber assignments. New technologies and collaborations are key in the library beyond their four walls to serve students, faculty and researchers at large.

ACRL is the largest individual membership academic library association in North America, with more than 11,000 personal and organizational members. Students and their parents can learn more about evaluating libraries in colleges and universities nationwide by visiting the
ACRL's online guide. In 2002, ACRL and the ALA will launch @ your library™, a public education campaign to speak loudly and clearly about the value of academic libraries and librarians.

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