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Innovation in Physical and Digital Architecture

As with possibly every post for this class thus far, I am finding it hard to condense everything I think and want to say about this week’s topic, Hyperlinked Environments (specifically in relation to academic libraries), into a concise and readable blog post.

The introductory video about the North Carolina State University’s Hunt Library Story led me to seeking out more information specifically on the game lab. I am particularly interested in the role of game labs in academic libraries, and, perhaps partially fueled by the fact that I chose not to pursue a Ph.D. at NCSU so I could finish my MLIS, I wanted to learn more about how it fits into the atmosphere/environment of innovation being cultivated at the Hunt Library. I found this article on how an English class on War Documentaries used the game lab space to develop an interactive film project. In one interview, a student highlights the fact that the group was not sure what they would be doing until they actually saw the game lab space in the library. As they became more aware of the kinds of tools available to them, their vision of the project continued to change. This process got me thinking about innovation itself.

First of all, there is a constant push for innovation, change, and looking towards the future to come up with ideas that can have a positive impact on learning and student success. As I continue to come across literature with this forward-looking perspective, a thought came to me that does not seem to get brought up very often. To put it simply, innovation is hard. This is part of the reason why there is so much literature being produced to assess the need for and to inspire innovation. An awesome example of seeking new avenues for innovation was the Eureka! Library Innovation Challenge which tasked students with coming up with their own ideas for improving academic libraries. This example of participation with the community that will be using the library seems like something that could be implemented much more widely. Scott W.H. Young provides another example of participatory design in his article on the User Experience for Underrepresented Populations project at Montana State. University (2017). What if more academic libraries had ways of getting input directly from students? I am not sure what I would have suggested as an undergraduate or graduate student had I been asked, but opportunities to offer real suggestions that would be taken seriously by my institution would have been great ways to implement the kind of critical thinking skills I was learning.

This kind of participation enables students to engage in real-world critical thinking and information issues, a subject Barbara Fister emphasizes in her article “The Boundaries of ‘Information’ in Information Literacy” (2017). Fister points out that the kind of knowledge and skills associated specifically with navigating academic databases and obtaining information on academic topics does not necessarily translate to the world students will encounter after college. She questions whether current modes of teaching are sufficient for helping today’s students find success. This issue ties back to the spaces in which innovation and learning are occurring in higher education. The physical spaces provided by libraries such as NCSU’s Hunt Library mentioned above and Carnegie Mellon’s Sorrells Library seek to break down traditional the traditional view of libraries as repositories for books. In addition to changes in the design of physical spaces, however, is the importance of the digital landscape for learning. Side note: I continue to find it interesting that the language for describing digital spaces is similar to that of physical spaces, such as architecture, environment, even the use of the word “space.”

Like physical spaces, the digital learning environment must also be designed in a way that encourages student engagement. This can happen in a number of ways. Fister points out a major change in modern searching for students in her article on “Reframing Libraries” (2016), where she writes that some of the key qualities that frame scholarly research as a conversation, such as footnotes and references, are often lost on modern students because of the easy of searching databases by topic. Kelly Dagan (2018) asks the question of how we can make library websites and systems that enable users in new ways by being more personalized and streamlined. Likewise, Malcolm Brown, Nancy Millichap, and Joanne Dehoney (2015) suggest that the learning management system (LMS) of today has served its purpose in enabling the “administration of learning,” but the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE) is one that would consist of an “ecosystem” or “confederation” of different components that assist in learning, not just management.

All of this is to say that there is currently a great deal of innovation of going on in academic libraries even though it is hard. The current attitude of always looking ahead, seeking new approaches to new issues, is yielding results. Innovation is taking place in the design of libraries’ physical spaces as we look to undermine stereotypes about libraries being outdated homes for old books, and in the digital learning environments of libraries and classrooms. I failed once again to keep my post short and concise, but this module, like those in past weeks, has given me a lot to think about and it helps to try to get some ideas in writing.

2 replies on “Innovation in Physical and Digital Architecture”

Thank you for thinking out loud. You brought up some things that were bothering me. As an editor for way too many decades (why I am switching to librarianship), I tend to see or look for what isn’t working or doesn’t fit.

I too was taken with the language of space and place, as I mentioned in my recent post on emerging tech for seniors. Seniors’ lower mobility seems to lead to “my space” becoming more important and needs to be higher quality, have stronger boundaries, and serve new needs.

Excellent point about LMS needing to branch out or evolve to be part of the learning module now that it is successful administratively. It reminds me of websites organized for librarians not patrons (my home library website is beautifully orchestrated from an administrative viewpoint).

A more subtle observation is the one about footnotes, etc., and what is lost with database use. I prefer Google Scholar where I can find everything. If I choose keywords well, relevance is ordered decently. Too much curation by limited databases reduces my discovery and the fun of investigation, and the turning around of something in my hand (or head) to see if maybe it could contribute something to my developing ideas on a subject.

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