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


Ahem...

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

1
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:
1
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!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Omnigraffle Vs. Visio

Exciting times! It's March, which means I officially have something due at the end of the month. The literature review should come together just fine... and with that out of the way, I'll be free to work on floorplans. Which, not so coincidentally, are the subject of today's post! Whoda thunk it.

Earlier this week I went to an IT lab short course on two multipurpose graphic design/information visualization programs: Omnigraffle, for the Macintosh by Omnigroup, and Microsoft's Visio. I found one thing really intriguing about the meeting: how the (not quite dueling) different focuses of the iSchool were on full display. Omnigraffle, you see, is great for taking abstract concepts and turning them into visual representations: mind maps, design workflows, whichever. As a result, it was talked up left and right during the session as an important and useful program- very cutting edge, and so forth. Visio received less attention, because it was more grounded and focused on practicalities... you know, stuff like drawing up floorplans and blueprints. Guess which one I'll be using! I guess I'm the John Hodgman in this situation. So it goes!

Visio has a very complicated interface, as one might expect, but I managed to sort of get the hang of it even in the short time spent at the lab. It has a setting for 'Office Layout' that will pretty much be perfect for a library, since it includes bookshelves and so on. And speaking of furniture, a bit of room has been made in the budget! There's a bit left for a crack at a library entryway, so I'm going to be cruising furniture sites for a good 'L' shaped desk and some magazine wracks when I get the chance. New, more detailed blueprints of the floor space have also showed up here at the center, so once I get a hand of those I can start laying out the exact square footage in Visio and rearranging. I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Floor Plan!



First of all, an update (or non update) on last week's post: no news so far on whether the design will be handled by someone from outside the research center. There's going to be another meeting about it monday, so I'll know more by then. Now that that's out of the way, this part has been a long time coming: floorplan!

The library is the bit near the top center of the image there. The front doors (the library is surrounded by frosted glass walls... classy, right? And oh so modern) open to the main library space. Just to the left of the entrance is the library work room, and across from that (upwards on the diagram) is one of the offices. The other office is the lone tiny room off to the side, on the right upper portion of the library. So that's what I have to work with!

Early considerations to set down: the space, overall, is larger. My idea so far (as far as creating a more open area, a sort of mini icommons if you will) is to make the area around the entrance as welcoming and open as possible, and place the stacks and shelving further back into the space. This will also allow undisrupted flow to and from the workroom, should people need to use it. The windows are blocked by the nearby parking garage, so allowing for natural light is (unfortunately, perhaps) not an issue here.

Things to be determined at this point: we've been told that outlets are placed 'every four feet or so' within the space, but it would be nice to know exactly where they are for desk/computer placement and so on. I've already got a pretty good idea as far as the materials placement (as far as what I know about what gets used the most), but that's obviously something I need to hash out completely with Louise before moving forward. We're starting on taking all the measurements next week! Things are really coming together past the research stage, so it's exciting for me.

In a nice coincidence, the iSchool computer lab decided to offer a shortcourse on Omnigraffle
(a visual design program that's often used for early floorplans) right when I need it! I'll be heading to it next Monday from 12-2. The lit review is pretty much wrapped up at this point (I still need to write the intro, but that shouldn't take long) so it'll be nice to have most of March and April to take measurements and work out floorplans. My goal is to make maybe 3 variations and provide some sort of reasoning for the differences in each. Unless I can come up with something that's just perfect on my first try. Is there beginners luck in library design?

At the very least, I know to avoid shag carpeting and earth tones. One thing I've noticed: library design literature refers to the 70's the same way some countries might refer, say, to a history of war crimes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fightin' the Man

MAJOR UPDATE: Recent events have forced me to make this a 'very special' edition of Joel's Capstone Blog. I won't be naming names (to protect the innocent), but there are a few very important developments that have to me mentioned before I move forward. Things are about to get somewhat interesting, and not exactly for the better.

Yesterday, my field supervisor and other higher ups here at the research center met with the UT representative who is negotiating CTR's move to the new building. Unbeknownst to the folks here at the center, the purpose of this particular meeting was to introduce an interior designer who had been brought in to help create a consistent look and feel for the various floors of the new building. This wouldn't have been a problem, if she had asked questions and tried to work with CTR staff to determine what would work best for the center and be aesthetically pleasing... but what actually took place during the meeting wasn't nearly that productive (or civil). It ended up being more of a hostile takeover.

Basically, staff were informed that an inventory would be taken of all the furniture currently at the center. This would include both common areas (meeting/break rooms, copy rooms) and individual offices. Then, the designer would decide what furniture would work best where in the new space- without regard to staff preference or comfort level. Let me make that clear: the designer was requesting free reign to remove someone's desk from their office and put it somewhere else, if she felt it better served the purposes of the new space. Maybe not the best way to introduce yourself?

And this plan, of course, included the library. She actually came down to see it, and as it turns out: this just won't do. Some of our shelves are different sizes, and colors even! Our desks are too old! Our chairs don't match! Never mind the fact that we manage to serve our patrons to the best of our abilities, and have won a few TxDOT awards for service (I may be a pinch bitter about this, if you haven't noticed). And beyond that, the implication was that we needed to buy new furniture. One of the other floors in the new building is buying a whole new set of modern looking chairs and desks- I've seen it, and it does look nice. And while what I've read so far does recommend maintaining a consistent look and feel to your library, the fact remains: we don't have the money for a whole new set of furniture, or new bookshelves. We have to make the best with what we have, period. And forcing researchers and staff to mix and match with what they're comfortable with isn't going to create a better work environment.

The meeting, ultimately, seemed to be a pressure sale on purchasing new furnishings for the library and research floor. When we told the UT rep that we couldn't afford it, we were told that we would have to work with the designer. When we told them that didn't sound like it would serve our needs, they told us it might be made mandatory. The plan, as of now, is to not back down and insist that the CTR be allowed to plan the move ourselves (though the designer is now in charge of finding a moving company, by the way... instead of going with the people who moved the library last time, and know about book/report placement and so on. Excuse me if I ARGH). But, depending on what happens... all the suggestions I put together might ultimately end up being ignored.

This is a depressing prospect, but my field supervisor insists that I move forward as if the future of the library is actually in our hands. Everything I've read so far emphasizes that aesthetics, while important, should not be placed over functionality. So I still plan on best using what we currently have. Still... frustrating! More as it develops.

Friday, February 13, 2009

On Literature Reviews

First things first: the floorplan scan I promised in the first post has now officially reached "ever-elusive" status. I talked to Louise about posting it online, and she said we would probably have to clear with some of the higher-ups here at the research center first. I am planning a choice post for when (crossing my fingers that the "and if" addendum isn't necessary here) it all comes together, however: expect a future post containing the floorplan and pictures of our current library space. Red tape! That's what I get for working for the guv'ment.

This week, Lousie and I hashed out the details for the Literature Review I'll be delivering come the end of March. I'd been wanting to know some of the basics: how many items, what metadata fields to include, and general partitioning of focus (mostly design? Or mostly library moving information?). Here's what we came up with:

  • 25-50 items (books, articles, etc.), with 50 being the absolute maximum. Narrowing it down to 30 high quality resources would be preferable.
  • Requested metadata fields included title, author, date published, publisher, and abstract/description if available.
  • The main focus of the literature review should be on library design, with regards to aesthetics and functionality. Much of the move itself has already been planned out (movers hired, schedules set) so my job will be to determine what to do with the stuff when it gets there, rather than how to get the stuff where it needs to be. Procedurally speaking, of course. Information on best practices and future goals for creative/effective use of library space is also desired.

To that end, research has been moving along quite nicely. The PCL has an excellent collection of print resources on library design (with many books in German, actually... shame my other language is French! Hopefully my grandmother never reads that), which I raided to the best of my abilities. Currently I'm reading 'Academic Libraries as High-Tech Gateways', which deals mainly with how libraries can best deal with the increasing focus on electronic resources within the information field. Overall, the message of the book seems to be that while electronic resources may gain prominence, print will still have an audience for the near future.

Or perhaps well into the future! The books does mention that in many cases, it depends on the institution. One of the things I've realized when trying to apply research I've been reading to an actual situation is this: reality has it's own constraints. While new furniture and paint may make a library more inviting to a potential patron, what if your institution can't afford furniture because of budget cuts? As far as the CTR goes, I'm pretty much stuck fitting what we have now into a new space, and doing my best to make an open environment by rearranging rather than reinventing. Which isn't to say that these books aren't helpful... it's just equally important to know your particular institution. Luckily I've worked here for a little over a year now.

Next week? I'm planning to start looking into blueprinting software soon... April will be here before I know it! And since I'd hate to break another promise, I'll say that will be next week's focus. If the big floorplan post ends up happening, it'll just be a nice surprise.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Where we are, Where we're going

So Louise has been out sick for most of this week, which means no new project update meetings. That being said, the floor plan rundown I promised last week will have to wait a while... but that's circumstance for you! Sometime it's out of your control.

That being said, I think it might be worthwhile to really dive into talking about the CTR library itself: collections, patronage, workflow, and so on. And beyond that, I'd also like to touch on where Louise wants to take the library, and how this move is going to help to act as a first step. Join me, if you will...

Besides re-arranging the collections and stacks to fit the new space, the main thing Louise wanted me to focus on in this project was the possibility of creating an "iCommons" for the new library. An iCommons (or information commons, to forgo Apple parlance) is the term that has been adopted to describe areas in libraries that blend internet and computer technology with traditional library services. It was birthed from the shift, over the last few years, from libraries providing physical materials to providing access to information: possibly through the stacks, but also through online databases, internet search, etc. The iCommons is also associated with a more comfortable, inviting library space. For smaller libraries like the CTR, this means less about setting aside an "area" within the library as an iCommons space, and more about making the entirety of the space more inviting. (See the Wisconsin DOT from last week's post).

As far as implementing technology with traditional service goes, the CTR library is already remarkably on the ball. Official TxDOT reports, which make up most of the catalog, are available online as pdf's (links are available through the online catalog for ease of finding/use). Additionally, most requests are received through email, and most researchers request pdf's. These are either found somewhere on the UT campus as physical copies and scanned, or located on one of the many Engineering and Transportation Journal databases that the CTR subscribes to.

CTR's patronage, mainly professional researchers and graduate students, many on site at the center, contributes to this focus on online and electronic services. Most individuals who contact the CTR either (A) know exactly what they want, by title or report number, or (B) have a specific engineering search term in mind (which are often standardized within the field) that they want a literature review performed on. In the case of A., the item can either be found in the CTR's catalog, online, or through interlibrary services. If the patron works at the Center, they can pick the item up and return (either checking it out, or simply taking one of the free extra copies that come with shipments of new reports). If they work offsite, pdf's are preferred to physical copies for simple convenience: they can get there faster, and researchers have deadlines. Very rarely does someone from the general public (not from a University or Transportation Agency) contact the CTR Library, and even then they often prefer pdfs. Seeing someone come in to browse the stacks would be the equivalent, roughly, of seeing bigfoot riding a unicorn through time square. In the case of a literature review request, most searching is done online through CTR's access to transportation databases. After that, patron's selections are tracked down and, you guessed it, sent as pdf's.

Which isn't to say that the CTR library's current space is uninviting: it's certainly usable. The TxDOT reports, which receive the most interest, are on shelves with plenty of space between them, perfect for tracking down a report (which are arranged conveniently by project number). There's also a small reference section (cataloged following LoC standards) and a 'States Room' that houses transportation reports from the USA's other transportation departments. Still, the space itself is a bit stale: the front desk is placed just to the left of the entryway, out of site from entry patrons. When the patron gets through the door, they're met by the back computer monitor that sits directly in front of the GRA manning the desk. There is a small table with four chairs meant for collaboration, but comfortable and inviting would not be the first words that spring to mind.

The new library space will be more open, and will allow us to set aside more of a room for an "iCommons". Following Wisconsin DOT's lead, we will be attempting at some point to get some used furniture on the cheap. Luckily enough, the CTR is already run like a library of the new century. The next step will be to look the part.

Next week! Floor plan. This time, I promise.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Grand Inaugural

Hi! And welcome to the first post of Joel Pelanne's Professional Experience Project for the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. I chose to help the Center for Transportation Research (where, full disclosure, I am currently employed) design and arrange the space of their new facilities, which they will be moving into within the next two years. In this introduction, I'll try to explain the scope and goals of my project, as well as the scope and goals of this blog. After that's taken care of, I'll end with a brief description of some of my preliminary research. Here we go!

Recent asbestos related delays have pushed the CTR's move back to the Spring of 2010 at the soonest (before, they were projecting December 2009). This was always going to be a long term planning project, however, so that won't affect my approach. The goals of this project are as follows:

  • To create a comprehensive literature review on library relocation and design/space planning. (To be completed by the end of March, 2009)
  • To draft a floorplan for the new CTR library space. (To be completed by the end of April, 2009)
In this blog, I'll try to document my progress in completing those two tasks. The topics of the weekly postings will probably vary from week to week, and shift in focus and move closer to completing the specific tasks. Early on I'll try to write about highlights from my research: helpful articles, books, other libraries, etc. The point will be to highlight what I found relevant to the CTR's situation, and what information I could use in my project and how. I'll also try to document and "events" that might occur along the way: trips to unfinished facilities, furniture shopping, and anything else worthy of note. Closer to the end of the project, I'll obviously start to write about how things are coming together: using software to create the new floorplan (maybe a chronicle of my struggles with it, but I'm hoping not) and piecing together my research into a coherent and instructive literature review. I'll probably set two posts aside to give my final thoughts on each of the "products" of the Capstone.

So, that'll be the blog! On to some research.

One of the things Louise expressed a lot of interest in early on was creating an 'iCommons' space for the new library. The iCommons is a relatively new concept to libraries, but it basically refers to creating an open, inviting space to patrons for collaboration and learning. It also has some connotations towards a more digitally oriented library space: since materials are largely available online, the physical space of the library has to find a new purpose. Having worked at the CTR for some time, I can say honestly that the physical collections themselves aren't used very often. Most of the transportation reports we have are made available as PDF's through the library website, and most of my job as a research assistant has involved assessing people's needs and directing them towards where the material is available online (or, should they be less tech savvy, collecting it myself and sending it their way). At the same time there are two reasons why we won't be doing away with the collections altogether. First, we do have some things that haven't been scanned, and some patrons that prefer physical copies. And second, since we are funded by the Texas Department of Transportation, we act as a repository of sort for their reports. Getting rid of them isn't an option. So my ultimate goal will be to integrate an iCommons, open type space within or in conjunction with the collections.

That being said, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Library has been a beacon of hope in these first few weeks! Two links first:

http://www.mtkn.org/pdf/tlr-iCommons-final.pdf

http://dot.wi.gov/library/


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation moved their facilities back in 2005, and their library decided to take that opportunity to completely redesign their facilities. The presentation above details how they attempted to make things more "user-friendly": essentially, making the space more open, the colors more soothing, the furniture more comfortable, etc. Making this sort of drastic transition at the CTR may be a bit tougher: there isn't enough money in the budget to buy a lot of new furniture, so a lot of what I'll be doing will be rearranging what we have. Still, there is more space at the new facilities, so with a little creativity I think a lot could still be done.

All in all, I'm looking forward to figuring this puzzle out! For next week's post, I'll scan and post the floorplan of the new library as is, showing the projected spaces for offices and the stacks, and get into exactly what I'll have to moving from the current CTR space to the new building. And maybe write up an article or book if one inspires me!