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:

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!

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