Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Final Thoughts

So after months of work, research, and planning: here I am. I present my Capstone project this Friday, and I print my poster tomorrow morning. The final report has been delivered (and revised, and redelivered... seems like one of the walls I had some shelves against became a window recently!), and now I'm off to look for a job somewhere in Austin. But why not take some time to reflect?

More than anything, I'm glad that this project gave me the chance to apply what I've learned in the real world: where things don't always go according to plan. I've dealt with construction delays, furniture budgets, and competing development groups over the course of the last semester... things that rarely seemed to come up in all of those group projects I worked on (not to say those weren't instructive, but very rarely was anything actually at stake... besides a grade point average). Things happen, and you have to deal with the consequences. That aspect of all of this has been absolutely invaluable.

I'm also glad that this stuff I put together is actually going to be put to use! Louise is showing my floor plan to the director today, and they'll discuss possible revisions and areas that might need to be kept in mind as construction moves on (things have changed before... they might change again). It's great to feel useful, capable, and respected as an equal within your field. Try as they might, I don't think universities will ever be able to break down the didactic nature of the professor/student relationship. Learning in a different sort of environment has been great.

There are more things I wish I could have gotten to, but they're beyond the scope of a semester long project. As plans get more finalized, I would like to have done more in the way of new furniture selection. I offered up suggestions, but to be part of the actual process would have been nice. As would have been being around for the move itself... but I'm not entirely sure where I'll be once April 2010 rolls around!

I'm proud of the work I did on this project, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Joel Pelanne

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Prepare Yourself


So, I'm approximately a week away from finishing up this capstone project. This weekend I'll run through the floorplans I've created and pick the best ones, then start on the write up for CTR. Our project abstract was due (via email) today, so here's that:

UT’s Center for Transportation Research library is set to move its facilities in spring 2010. The goal of this project was to compile a space planning and moving guidebook for library staff that included a comprehensive literature review on the subject (focusing on the concept of the ‘Information Commons’), possible floor plans based on building blueprints, and general suggestions for things like d├ęcor and new furniture. After visiting the site of the new space, consulting the blueprints, and reviewing current library space planning literature and research, two final products were delivered to CTR library staff: the first was a literature review that included initial suggestions for space planning and moving library materials, and the second was a collection of possible floor plans (created using Microsoft’s ‘Visio’ software) with suggestions for future decorating decisions and furniture arrangement. Space planning is an important part of moving to a new library facility. Ultimately, it is hoped that the work done on this project will help CTR staff to use their new space to its fullest advantage to better serve their patrons.

I've read plenty of abstracts in my years of graduate and undergraduate classes, so I tried to do something in the same spirit. The word limit was tough to stick to! Describing a few months of work in less than 200 words is tricky, to say the least. I wanted to go into more detail about the idea of the Information Commons and how Louise was interested in and requested it, but I suppose that's what the poster session is for!

As you can see, I've managed to take some photos around the current library space too. Here's another that I want to talk about:

As you can see (or not?), this is the current front desk at CTR. First, the positives: it's right next to the door! It helps create the welcoming environment that's so good for libraries to establish, and it's connected via phone/internet. But, on the downside: because of the small space, it's really crammed in. It is part of the library entryway, but that entryway is very, very crowded because of it. If the door is slightly less than completely open (floating away from the wall, in other words: they open in to the library) then it can completely block the view of the GRA that is sitting at the desk.

So this is the sort of thing I'm trying to fix! The new space allows for more openness, and a front desk that is near the entrance, part of the entrance... but not breathing down the neck of the entrance.

As this picture makes sort of clear, almost all of CTR's shelving faces parallel to the lengthwise walls of the building: effectively blocking light that comes from the windows. The new space will allow for sunlight- glorious, glorious sunlight!- to filter into our Holy Lady of Pavement Standards and Specifications (sorry, I suddenly reminded myself of something written by a priest putting a cathedral together... he was a bit effusive about his windows, to say the least. I finally get it).

I leave you with one last picture: it's what the Visio floorplan looked like after I had created all of the furniture, but hadn't begun to arrange it yet. It was a great feeling: I felt like I had finished something, but still had plenty to do. Which is probably what I'll feel like once I get my degree, I suppose!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Design, Design, Design?

Looking at that picture, the end of my project seems closer than ever. I still need to create properly sized furniture and arrange it in a few different ways, but wow. It's been a lot of fun, and truly interesting/challenging. That took me two hours! Just trying to get it to actual scale, and figuring out Visio. It's not pretty yet, but take it from me: it works!

Funny enough, the consultant hired to do the building plan handed in their initial sketches right as I was putting the finishing touches on my own preliminary layout. The consensus: not great! She went through the whole floor, but I'll focus on the library (for obvious reasons, personal vendettas, yadda yadda yadda). First of all, the consultant had all of the shelves facing parallel to the windows. This essentially would block any light from coming into the building, and Louise had specifically mentioned wanting perpendicular shelving. The front/main desk was actually placed so that part of it was behind a wall column, which doesn't make for a great first impression. And finally, there was other assorted weirdness as well: file cabinets floating out in the middle of rooms like islands, shelves extending a few rows past walls the were lined up against (creating walls of shelves in the middle of the space, which would be somewhat bizarre)... basically, most of the things that could've been done wrong were done wrong. At the very least, it gives me a good idea of what not to do! I would post a picture, but that could cause some trouble...

I also went to a capstone poster session informational yesterday morning. Turns out: since there are so many of us graduating this semester, they've done away with the 'minute madness' portion of the proceedings! In lieu of that, everyone has to hand in an abstract (200 words or less), and these will be compiled in a program for the day's events. So I suppose I'll just be standing next to my poster, answering questions. I think I can handle that! Though I will have to remember to schedule the business school's printer, since apparently it gets sort of hectic near the end of the semester.

By next week I hope to have at least one finished floorplan with furniture. After that, I've just got to write up my narrative/suggestions for CTR, and I'll be finished! If I wrap things up a bit early, I'll have time to revise and work on poster design, which will be nice. Not to mention other classes. All in all: still work to be done, but I can see the finish line. That's a good feeling, to say the least.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Furniture: The Blog Post

Things are moving right a long here in the land of Cap'd Stone. I'm pleased to announce that the Literature review I turned in went over quite well this week: Louise has already started to peruse some of the articles, and she gave the whole package (introduction and all) a thumbs up. It was a nice way to sort of say good by to the research phase, and now it's down to the nits and grits. Here's a link to the lit review: http://www.mediafire.com/?jihgmqmnmju

Anyhow, about those nits and grits: this week I set about (tape measurer in hand) to inventory the furniture and shelving in the library. Here's what we've got!

Furniture: Library Proper

Large Table, Front Desk (5ft x 2.5ft)
3 Small Side Desks (2ft 8in x 1ft 6in)
1 Circular Table (4ft Diameter)
1 Small Computer Station/Desk (3ft 6in x 2ft)
1 Large Computer Station/Desk (3ft 6in x 2ft 8in)
1 Conference Table (6ft x 2ft 10in)

Shelving: Library Proper
1 Small Wooden Shelf (3ft x 1ft)
1 Taller Wooden Shelf (3ft x 1ft)
1 Magazine Rack (3ft x 11in)
7 Grey, Slatted Shelves (3ft x 1ft)
19 Tall Grey Slatted Shelves (3ft 1/2in x 1ft)
1 Large File Cabinet (4ft 6in x 3ft 7in) (weird size!)
1 Small File Cabinet (2ft 4.5in x 1ft 3in) (is it a file cabinet thing?)
2 Odd Shelves (Small Grey Slats) (3ft x 9 1/2in)

Work Room:
Large Desk (5ft x 2ft 9in)
1 Computer Desk (5ft 10in x 3ft)
1 Side Desk (3ft 6in x 2ft)
4 File Cabinets (3ft x 1ft 6in)
2 Shelves (3ft x 1ft)

States Room Shelves: 9 (2ft 8in x 1ft 1/2in)

So that's the situation! I'm going to try to get the floorplan drawn up in Visio next week, then I can start diagramming and pasting furniture pieces in different configurations. All the while looking for furniture and decoration. This is the fun part!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Back from Break, Due Next Week?

So, after a nice sunny interlude, back to the grind! The Lit Review is due next Wednesday, and most of this week has been spent editing. Here comes the rundown: most of the articles included deal, naturally, with issues on general library layout and design. I managed to find a few books that dealt specifically with small and special libraries, so I figure taken together those should give Louise a good sense of the standards and practices out there. She has moved a library before, so the idea will be to introduce new ideas and provide a larger context for planning. The last time CTR moved the library, they were given almost no notice. Louise wanted information on planning, since they have more time to actually do it this time. I tried to find it!

I also included plenty of articles on the concept of the Information Commons and new integrated library service models. It was interesting: looking at that research sort of made me realize how on top of things we really are here at the CTR library! One article in particular (this one) describes the importance of a central general information desk in a 'information commons' centered library: one that patrons can contact in person, over the phone, and through email. The purpose of this desk is to either answer routine reference requests, refer patrons as needed to other institutions, or pass more advanced request onto a higher up in the library. This sounded familiar to me, because that's exactly the setup we have at CTR!

In fact, this whole project has made me feel very luck to have gotten a position working at a library that is, in general, so up to speed service wise. Many of the articles separated the information commons concept into two principles: service, and design. These are linked, of course, but they're both equally important. CTR manages to balance the use of physical and digital collections very, very well. As far as redesigning or implementing an information commons goes... on my end, it'll really be more about creating a more open space. Making the entrance a bit more inviting, and suggesting art and furniture choices. But otherwise, things are put together remarkably well. Part of the introduction to the Lit Review should definitely be about telling Louise what we've been doing right, and what shouldn't change, along with what needs to be done.

Taking inventory early next week, so the new post will be all about design! Can't wait. I want to start moving stuff around, even if it's just imaginary stuff at the moment.

Friday, March 13, 2009

On Floor Plans, and Others

It was an interesting week... nothing super substantial that stands out, but that just means this post will be a bit rambling and self indulgent. Like a real blog!

The designer made her way through the building next week. There was a really strange feeling around the center, very "omen of ill portent". It was the definitely the closest my Graduate Research position has ever felt to being in a Bergman movie. She took a few photos and measurements and left. Apparently it could all be for naught: I've heard a few rumblings that whatever she reports might be met with a "oh, that's nice" and subsequently ignored by the higher ups here at the research center. If that really is the case, it seems like a shame that someone is actually paying for her services. Especially if the budget is so tight!

I've been working on my own floor planning as well. Louise and I went through the library to determine what we will and won't take: apparently, we're taking pretty much everything! We are still trying to replace the front desks and magazine racks. I might also look into buying a CD tower/shelf to store the digital reports, freeing up some shelf space in the process. Also, the plan right now is to keep the basic arrangement of furniture between the library space and the workroom more or less as is.

That could use some explanation, since not everyone is on the 'inside' of this operation. Right now, the workroom has it's own work desk with two computers and a few filing cabinets/closed office shelves. One of the computers is just a work terminal, the other is the actual server for the catalog and such. The shelves contain both office supplies and archival copies of various reports of importance: basically, one 'to keep' copy of every report produced on site at the center (not every TxDOT report, every CTR TxDOT report. Believe me when I say I'm actually sparing you here... I could unleash so many acronyms). There's a new workroom space in the new library, and this stuff is going to be making a direct transfer: nothing extra from the library is going to the workroom (yet!) and vice versa.

I need to buy a tape measurer. The actual floor plans are due at the end of April, but I'd like to have all the shelving and furniture spec'd out by the end of March. One of the floor plans is going to be strictly what we have now, should we not be able to find any new furniture. Beyond that, I'll try to make a few more with possible new pieces that I find.

One other interesting challenge: finding transportation themed artwork! Louise is interested in decorating the new space a bit more. I wonder if the futurists would be in poor taste?

Spring Break next week, so no new posts... unless I find something I just have to right about. But I'll return with one about the Lit Review. Yay deliverables!