Library Renovations: Pedagogy as driver?

I spotted an interesting blog post about what drives the physical shape of academic library renovations. Here at ASU, Hayden Library has completed the first phase of a major library renovation. The sub-basement of Hayden has been partially emptied of its stacks and refitted with futuristic computer classrooms and group study spaces.


Hayden Library’s sub-basement, renovation mostly completed (from ASU Libraries)

Hayden Library is far from alone in launching a major renovation of an academic libraries. Across the world, academic libraries are fighting to justify their existence and negotiate continued occupancy of their physical space. An article at The Guardian this month outlines what’s behind the drive to renovate:

“Pedagogy is the driver for the changes in library design,” says Ann Rossiter, director of the Society of College, National and University Libraries – “changes to the way undergraduates are expected to study, for example, including more social spaces, more social learning and group learning. The way that library buildings are changing is designed to reflect that.”

Academic libraries are thus being repositioned as active “learning spaces” rather than static repositories of information. This trend is several years in the making, and I imagine that only our children will be able to report on the full effects of transformation. Change is always hard, but when it comes to physically re-imagining what many consider sacred ground, emotions can run high.

“The academic library has died,” wrote Brian Sullivan, librarian at Alfred University, in an opinion piece responding to the gloomy tone of a 2011 report on the future of academic libraries. “One reason for cause of death is that library buildings were converted into computer labs, study spaces and headquarters for informational-technology departments.”

Classes just started last Thursday at ASU, so not much word yet on how the lower level classrooms are working out.

How about your library? How has your library been transformed? Any plans for renovation?

Banned Books in Academic Libraries

I read a great article by Scott DiMarco over at ACRL News – “Why I banned a book.”

Yes, I banned a book. I am a seasoned librarian and academic library director and a supporter of free speech and democracy, but I banned a book. The term heresy quickly comes to mind in the world of librarianship, but the story is much deeper than it first appears. The very temporary banning was simply an object lesson to our campus community on the arbitrary and capricious nature of censorship, as well as providing an interesting take on the nature of social media. Read the full article

Yes, academic librarian Scott of Mansfield University of Pennsylvania banned a book – but not for the reasons you think. He banned a book to stir up emotions on a campus that showed no interest in attending Banned Books Week events. And it worked, too! Thousands of people responded with outrage – to what they found out was a hoax.

Are these desperate times for library events?

I’m sure you’ve experienced similar frustrations at your library. You plan an event months in advance, hire a speaker or come up with what you think is a brilliant presentation, and then four people show up. All of whom are colleagues.

What would you do? Would you merely cope with disappointment or would you vow to boost attendance next time?

How far would YOU go to get the academic community interested in the issues that your library is promoting?

Read the rest of Scott’s article over at ACRL News, and chime in with your thoughts below!

Learning Badges: A solution to growing library instruction programs?

Let’s face it: academic libraries are only going to continue having to do more with less. As print circulation drops, use of  online library resources (hopefully) rises – but how is your library meeting the challenge of teaching students to use online resources efficiently? I would guess that most instruction librarians are already on teaching overload! The solution may lie in online classes – but not the for-credit, instructor-led classes that you’re used to!


The future of information literacy instruction may, instead, lie in learning badges! Many college and university libraries are turning to “gamification” or short, online modules, that teach students specific info lit skills and reward students with colorful, virtual “badges” that the students can collect and show off. Purdue University seems to be at the forefront of developing academic library badges. Take a look at U of A librarian Nicole Pagowsky’s review of Purdue’s beta badge program.

Done well, learning badges look like some of those developed at University of California, Davis, for the sustainable agriculture program. Earned badges allow students to show the world what they’ve learned. “Each badge would allow the employer to click through to more detailed levels of evidence and explanation—documents, assessment results, hyperlinks, video, and more.” Badges are fully explained and hopefully transferrable to use outside of academia.

In fact, learning badges have the potential to transform records of academic learning as we know it today:

Compared with the new open badge systems, the standard college transcript looks like a sad and archaic thing. Its considerable value is not based on the information it provides, which is paltry. What does a letter grade in a course often described only by the combination of a generic department label and an arbitrary number (e.g. Econ 302) really mean? Nobody knows, which is why accredited colleges often don’t trust that information for the purposes of credit transfer, even when it comes from other accredited colleges.

What do you think? Do you see potential for learning badges at your institution?