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Library upgrades the focus at town-hall forum

Written by Tom Urell, communications officer, University Libraries

Several dozen students and university officials discussed Snell Library’s future at a town-hall meeting last week. Topics ranged from the library’s commitment to sustainability to technology upgrades and the availability of study space.

The students in attendance included representatives from the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Government. The university officials included Will Wakeling, dean of University Libraries; Rehan Khan, vice president of information services and chief information officer; and Jim Cahill, facilities’ associate vice president for planning, design, and construction. Kristina Lopez, the SGA vice president for academic affairs, moderated the event.

The town-hall meeting continued the ongoing dialogue between library officials and students, many of whom have shared their thoughts on the changes to the library environment on whiteboards and through surveys and social media. The biggest change to the library is the new Digital Media Commons, which opened in September on Snell Library’s second floor.

One of the primary topics highlighted by students at the meeting was the availability of study space. Students noted that study areas get crowded quickly in the busiest times of the academic year, making it difficult for everyone to find a quiet place to work. In response, Wakeling noted that this issue would in part be alleviated over the long term by the changing nature of library collections. More print material will be made available online, he said, freeing up library officials to convert space currently used to store books into study areas.

Students also inquired about the library’s commitment to sustainability. Cahill noted the challenge of retrofitting existing campus buildings, but said the university is dedicated to achieving and going beyond the LEED standards in new construction. Khan added that the library has taken advantage of green-computing standards in existing data centers, deployed virtual servers, and recommended the use of energy-efficient computing devices, digital content, automation, and even double-sided printing. Wakeling also described the library’s successful initiative to replace photocopiers with document-scanning devices.

In response to a question about upgrades to classroom technology, Khan pointed to the classroom renovations committee and the ongoing efforts to refurbish classrooms, adding that dozens of classrooms are updated annually during semester breaks. The committee, comprised of faculty, students, and administrators, evaluates both physical infrastructure and technology improvements, Khan said.