North Entrance of library brings new student workspace

| April 17, 2012

The new student work stations that will be located on the ground floor of Atkin's Library. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Lansford

Picture the entrance through Peet’s Cafe at J. Murray Atkins Library. Now picture a more open, welcoming work space which furthers the changes made to the library with the new North Entrance. This is the vision that library staff see when they think of the completed renovations to the library.

The new renovations are part of a two-phase plan to build more student study spaces and integrate technology with collaborative work. Stanley Wilder, university librarian, says the renovations of phase one by the North Entrance are a demonstration of renovation ideas for phase two.

“It’s a new entrance to a new kind of space—one that supports the collaborative work that [students] do,” said Wilder.

Walk through the North Entrance and immediately there is a conference room equipped with a flat screen monitor for displaying presentations and videoconferencing.

Wilder says the conference room was designed specifically for students to practice presentations and work on group projects, including glass walls of the room students can easily write ideas on. Students can connect laptops through ports in the conference table to view projects on the screen and the nearby work area allows them to share work and collaborate with two inTouch Interactive Tables in the new space from T1Visions, a company that specializes in interactive touch screen surfaces.

Each table has a built-in touch screen that can be spilt into four screens, allowing up to four groups or individuals to work at the same time on different tasks. The tables are connected to the library network for Internet browsing and use of library databases.

Ports and power sources in the tables also allow students to connect laptops and USB devices to view files on the touch screens and on larger flat screen monitors by each table. The tables are designed to let users share and view files. Interactive games are included for short study breaks.

No matter what reason students come to work in the library, staff sought student input to design spaces students will want to use. Posters in the new spaces will feature the student ideas used in building the study areas.

Unlike many group study rooms in the library the new spaces will be available exclusively for students without a reservation process. The space will not be reserved for classes, events or study sessions. Students can use the space any time they choose.

“It’s really important to [the library staff] that this space belongs to students all the time,” said Wilder.

The new entrance will also include a new circulation desk for checking in and out books. Laptops, inter-library loan books and course reserves, however, will continue to be circulated and returned at the circulation desk by the main entrance.

While the project was funded in part with state money, much of the funding for this addition came from donations from parents of current students.

According to Wilder the new entrance and study spaces cost around $675,000. As part of total expenses the interactive tables cost from $12,000 to $13,000 apiece.

“[The new study spaces] represent what a 21st century research library is becoming.  Over the past two years, we’ve worked hard to become the best and most relevant place for students to get their work done—no matter what their work preferences are,” said Shelly Theriault, library communications and marketing manager.

“From 24/5 availability to more usable, comfortable furniture and from increasing group study spaces to new technology we’re simply not the old, traditional view of a library.”

This June phase two of the renovations will begin with tearing down the wall of white boards in Peet’s and expanding into the nearby office spaces. The offices will be relocated to the lower level of the library freeing what Wilder calls “prime space” to add to study spaces by the new entrance.

Phase two renovations will add 16,000 square feet to the newly renovated 14,000 square feet of study spaces. Construction for phase two is expected to last two to three months.

“We want to see it fully up and running this fall and will send intermittent progress updates during this time,” said Theriault.

With the North Entrance and future additions, Wilder says he and library staff look to continue energizing the student community and investing in learning on campus.

“We hope to help build the culture of study here [at UNC Charlotte] and make student studying visible. Walking in from the coffee shop you almost have to trip over all the groups working [together] at white boards. It’s natural to see that and think, ‘It’s time to get to work,’” said Wilder.

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