Adios!

This is my final message as Dean of the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library. I came to USF St. Petersburg in August 2009 to take over leadership of the Poynter Library. In the past five and a half years, we have transformed the physical and virtual space of the Library and have redefined the services we provide to the students and faculty of USFSP. We did this strategically, working closely with the students and with colleagues across the University to be sure we were anticipating and meeting their changing needs. We did this collegially, involving all library faculty and staff, valuing every individual’s contributions, celebrating each individual and group success. I am proud of every member of the Poynter Library family and what we have accomplished together.

In the last five and a half years, we have:

• built a welcoming, attractive, and highly functional space centered around students on the first floor of the Library and we have been gradually expanding the redesign to the second and third floors.
Students studying 2014
• developed a new service model that takes advantage of the skill and expertise of our front-line employees to help library users with their basic service needs and that calls in a reference librarian when there is the need for more in-depth research assistance.
Librarian helping student with research
• built the USFSP Digital Archive where we showcase the work of our faculty and our students and also store the institutional memory of USFSP.
• developed traditions for students like the Annual Halloween Costume Contest, Halloween contest the Annual Reception for New Graduate Students, the visits twice a semester from Therapy Dogs International, the Student Research Colloquium, and much more.
• engaged with the broader community through events and lectures, like the recent Living Books event in November 2014.
• expanded access to technology and online resources through the purchase of more laptops, the installation of open-use computers on every floor, the acquisition of collaboration workstations on the first and second floors, and the upgrade of our group study rooms.Collaboration station
• developed online modules for many basic library and information literacy needs so that students can learn how to carry out research, cite an article, avoid plagiarism, and much more when it’s convenient for them 24/7 and at their own pace.
• developed a robust professional development environment for faculty teaching online courses through the Online Learning and Instructional Technology Services department.
• And much more.

I now turn the reins over to Interim Dean of Library Deborah Henry.Carol Hixson and Deb Henry Deb has been a member of the Poynter Library faculty since 1988 and is well known and highly regarded across the campus and the state. She knows the ins and outs of the Poynter Library and USFSP and has been actively involved in planning for and making many of the recent changes happen. She is a thought leader who has always gone the extra mile in providing outstanding library service. For those of you who already know her, you will be happy to work with her in this new role. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Interim Dean Henry, you will be delighted to get to know her and work with her.

Adios, muchachos y muchachas! It has been a blast. My new position is that of Dean of University Libraries at Florida Atlantic University, starting in August. Anyone wanting to reach me there, can send an email with my last name @fau.edu

Best wishes,

Carol Hixson

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Service, an open mind, and accountability pay off

As finals week for the fall 2014 semester is winding down, we in the Library are reflecting on how busy things have been. On Monday December 1, we experienced the highest door count in our history: 2113 visits. The previous record high count of 1661 was a year earlier on Monday December 9, 2013. We experienced a 21% increase overall in unique visits to the Library during the exam period this year over the same time period last year. To get a sense of how busy we were, you can visit a photo album on the Library’s Facebook page.

One thing that we see all the time is how often students are using the library space to work together, which was what we had in mind as we set about redesigning the space.Students Collaborating Whether they are using “old” technology like whiteboards
Using Whiteboards
or the new computer workstations on the busy collaboration zone of the first floor.
Collaboration at computers
When I get asked why our door counts are up 21% in a semester when enrollments are down, the deliberate redesign of our space to enable students to work together effectively would seem to be one reason.

But we also know that not everyone wants to collaborate all of the time. Sometimes, a quiet place to study is just what they want, as we saw this week as almost every single space of any shape or design was filled with students.
Students in old carrels
Whether they were taking advantage of our semi-quiet Scholars’ Lounge on the first floor
Scholars' Lounge
or were making use of our brand-new computer workstations on the designated quiet third floor.
quiet computer space - 3rd floor
We also opened up our instruction room on the second floor with dedicated computers as another quiet study area with computers. These steps have all been taken following student feedback. As much as we can, we try to give our students the type of equipment, space, and experience that they need to be successful.

But beyond redesigning the space, we continually redesign our services based on feedback from students and faculty. This semester, we provided instruction to 39% more students than for the fall semester of 2013.

We also hosted 83% more events for students than in the same semester last year. We pride ourselves on putting the students first, listening to what they have to say, and doing our best to give them what they need and want to have successful academic careers. Some of those events are less serious than others, such as our periodic visits from the Therapy Dogs International at stressful times, but they are all designed to engage, educate, and enlighten our students.
Therapy Dogs International December 2014

As part of increasing our transparency and accountability, we have also worked diligently to create up-to-date and informative reports from all library departments, documenting our activity, achievements, and challenges. We invite everyone to look at our Library Departmental and Committee Reports

The Poynter Library faculty and staff are a dedicated, hard-working, creative group of people. We have managed to accomplish some amazing things together. If anyone reading this posting is inspired to give us a hand, I invite you to visit our giving pages where you can see all the areas of support needed to enable us to continue to serve the students of this beautiful university. Join in the fun!

Relax, Study, Connect

The Library just acquired eight new comfy chairs that have places for you to plug in and connect your devices (phones, iPads, etc.) while you sit in a quiet spot and read, study, or just catch up with the world through your phone or other device.

These chairs are located in the stacks on the second and third floors of the Library and are part of our ongoing effort to redesign our space and make it comfortable, convenient, and connected. The third floor is designated as a quiet floor so use of cell phones should be limited to texting with the sound turned off, out of consideration for others around you.

If you’re new to USFSP, you can read about more of our efforts to redesign the Library in earlier posts on this blog under the topic of Library Design.

Unlike the USF Tampa Library or some other libraries at big universities, the Poynter Library has not received a special allocation for redesign. We depend upon the support of donors to help us transform the library to be the kind of place that our students want and need. Everytime you enjoy a new chair, computer, or collaboration station, know that someone in the community cared enough about you to make a donation so that we could serve you better.

The Redesign Continues

You will have seen more work underway in the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014 to continue the transformation of the library into the kind of space we’ve heard that students want and need. In the fall, we officially opened the Jeanne and Bill Heller Scholars’ Lounge, a glass-enclosed quiet space on the first floor. This was possible thanks to the generous donation of funds from Dean of Education Bill Heller and his wife Jeanne and reflects their love of the students of USFSP and their belief that libraries are central to any academic endeavor.

    Scholars' Lounge

This spring, we have been given some additional funds from the University, supplemented by money from private donors, to purchase more furnishings. You will have noticed the newest additions to the library’s redesign: more technology-enhanced furnishings on the first, second and third floors, as well as some additional whiteboards.

    First floor workstation

There are new multi-seat workstations designed to provide comfortable work space for plugging in and connecting to wherever you need, as well as some new collaboration stations for group work. We are increasing the number of seats in the library, as well as seats that increase access to power. The first phase of the furniture has arrived, but we are still in the process of getting all the power and data connected.

    Second floor workstation

We have more changes coming. There will be more comfortable easy chairs – like those we already acquired last year for the first floor – strategically placed on the second and third floors.

We have moved an important collection in support of the College of Education’s teacher training programs into a spot with other collections on the second floor. The collection of books, kits, games, and media that teachers in training need to design their classroom experiences are now shelved appropriately and more easily accessible.

    Juvenile Fiction and Curriculum Collection

The second floor reading room of Instructional Media Services and Distance Learning is due for a significant redesign, starting with modifying old-style passive listening and viewing rooms to active video-creation spaces for students and faculty.

The guiding principles are to design spaces that are flexible and that support today’s students and today’s curricula. The library is not just an archive any longer – it is an active, collaborative space where we intend for all users to make connections with the resources and the people they need to be successful lifelong learners.

Read about earlier renovations here Library as Social Space

Library as Social Space

Back in November 2012, I gave an update on some of the changes taking place in the library. I outlined the work that a Library Space Allocation Committee had undertaken to interview students, conduct focus group meetings with students, visit other libraries, and research trends in academic library design. I and several library faculty and staff have attended workshops where the redesign of library and instructional spaces have been the sole or a primary focus.

The work is still underway. The new carpeting for the first floor is due to be installed between Spring semester and Summer A. Because of the carpet installation, the library will be closed to the public for that week.

Later in the summer, glass walls are due to be installed around our new Scholars’ Lounge area, thereby providing a quiet study zone on the first floor.
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Not everyone is happy, however. Earlier this week I received a statement of “concern” from one or more anonymous faculty that the “Library [is] becoming more of a social center for students rather than the emphasis continuing to be on research resources.”

The University is here for the students. And if students tell us they want a space where they can connect with their peers and study in groups, as well as conduct individual research, we are going to try our best to give them a variety of spaces to meet their varied needs.

The books are still here. The access to over a million electronic books, journals and databases are still here. Dedicated librarians and other library staff are still here to help people do whatever they need to do for their research and study. Special Collections where students can work with primary source materials are still here. Even the microfilm cabinets and the microfilm readers are still here – although they no longer take up half the space on the first floor of the library as they used to. But the first floor is definitely looking different.
Students using new collaboration station??????
And, according to an article published last week in the Crow’s Nest, we seem to have gotten it right for at least some of the students: Not Your Grandmother’s Library. As the article says:

“Ricky Cherry, a junior majoring in marketing, comes to the library five days a week for about four hours. He said the library’s ambiance is one of the reasons he stays on campus between classes, even though he only has a 12-minute commute.

“This is perfect, looking at the water, like you’re at home on your own couch,” Cherry said. “It’s relaxing and doesn’t make studying as big of a chore. It’s nice, a place to get away or get some work done. This illustrates that they care, and that we have a voice. I feel that students must have recommended this.”

Yes, Ricky, you are right. Students did recommend it. We listen and we care and we will keep listening and caring, no matter how much some people disapprove of how “social” our space is becoming.

Pardon the Mess – Future Plans at the Library

Yesterday I received a phone call from a student who was upset about the noise and the disruption in the library. Based on that call, we made some changes right away to reduce the amount of time that workers are in the library making noise. But it also made me realize that we needed to do a better job to let you know what’s going on.

First, I apologize for the noise and disruption to date. We will do everything we can to minimize that as we move forward.

Anyone who has been in the library this semester knows that there are a lot of changes underway: new furniture, new technology, lots more open space – and a fair amount of noise and disruption along the way. What is probably not obvious is that we have a plan to move us forward incrementally to a new design that responds to what students have told us they want and need. Unfortunately, we have to rely on ourselves for planning and design and using Foundation funds set aside for the library, with occasional investments from the University that come available suddenly and typically must be spent in a very short timeframe when they do become available.

In the spring of 2011, I charged a Space Committee to look at the use of space in the Library, starting with the first floor. Every member of the committee is a full-time library employee who already has more than enough work to do to fill up every day: the committee work is an add-on to their regular jobs. The committee has consulted with libraries that have done major renovations, attended workshops, made site visits, carried out research on designing Library space, worked with furniture vendors to get free design ideas, and conducted surveys and focus group meetings with our students. We have been carrying out renovations incrementally because that is the only way we can do it without a big infusion of funds earmarked for renovation. The basic design principles we have been employing for the first floor, along with some of the steps we have taken to bring them to life, are enumerated below:

  1. Free up as much floor space as possible, reducing the collections on the floor and creating more room for group and individual study  (reference books, journals, maps, videos/DVDs, microforms have been extensively weeded to remove older, low-use items or those that are available electronically and we have moved most of the remainder to other areas of the Library)
  2. Create some quiet zones on the first floor (Poynter Corner and new Scholars’ Lounge area on the south wall facing the harbor)

    Scholars’ Lounge

  3. Get furnishings that enable us to have more power outlets for laptops and other technology (Resolve Workstations pull power down from the ceiling or from walls and provide power for 8-10 people to work independently; Collaboration Stations  provide shared workspace for 4-6 people to plug in and work individually or as a group)

    Resolve workstation

    Resolve workstation with power for laptops

  4. Increase flexibility by acquiring furnishings that are movable and that support the on-the-fly creation of quiet and group study spaces (movable lounge chairs and other chairs on wheels, white boards on wheels, etc., Resolve Workstations with movable walls)
  5. Create zones with different styles to appeal to a variety of student interests and preferences (worked with Herman Miller to select variety of furnishings to support range of activities)
  6. Maintain a physical presence of books because students indicate that their proximity helps them get in the mood for studying (Leisure Reading collections will remain on first floor)
  7. Build on the aesthetics of the building and the location with decorative touches, i.e. with student artwork, plants, throw rugs, carpeting, painting, etc. (Building the collection of professionally framed posters from the graphic design classes, picking out and putting together/installing lamps, throw rugs, throw pillows, plants, and more)

    Student artwork

    Posters from graphic design students

  8. Bring in more technology (Collaboration Stations, Resolve Workstations)

    Collaboration station

    Students using one of the Collaboration Stations

  9. Create more space for exhibits  (Repainted and repurposed portable display units from the old Dali Museum)
  10. Reduce the number of discrete service points (Have eliminated separate reference desk and instead have librarians on call and utilize a Resolve Workstation for consultation)

What’s next?

  1. The University decided to grant our request for new carpeting on the first floor. This decision was made by University Administration in August.
    1. We are working with Campus Facilities to ensure that the carpet installation is undertaken after finals are over – December 15 and before next semester’s classes start January 7.
    2. So that everything is ready for the carpet installers, we have had to remove some materials and shelving from the first floor. This has taken longer and has been noisier than expected. We have now arranged for the remaining breakdown of shelving to be done between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  2. The area by the south wall facing the harbor that we are calling the Scholars’ Lounge was designed to provide a quiet study area on the first floor with a more scholarly ambiance. Transparent glass walls are due to be installed to provide soundproofing and also increase the number of electrical outlets by bringing power down from the ceiling into the walls. When this project is approved, we will work with the vendor to ensure that the bulk of the installation occurs when the library is closed or when classes are not in session.
  3. We have plans to purchase more furnishings and are seeking student input to help us make good selections. Over the next few weeks, you may be approached by student workers or library staff to ask your opinion.  We will get as much new furniture and technology as we can afford, using every funding source that we have available to us. To date, funds have come from USF Foundation funds earmarked for the library and student technology fee money.
  4. We have requested additional computer workstations to be installed on the first floor, moving some computers from another underutilized lab on campus. Rather than add them onto the existing horseshoe configuration, we would like to have them installed in small pods, such as around columns. The design we are proposing is based on what we saw during a visit to the library at the University of Central Florida (see below). We hope this will come to pass and will keep you informed as soon as we know more.

    Computer workstations at UCF

    Computer workstations at UCF

  5. Some of you may remember our failed attempt to provide coffee in the library. The machine that had been installed was unreliable, too costly, and people were not satisfied with the product. We have been looking into alternative approaches. For the time being, however, we have to wait for other projects to be completed before we can push forward on this one.
  6. Another long-term project on our wish list is to find a way to keep the library open longer hours. We are looking into ways to make some structural changes that would enable us to keep the first floor of the library open 24/5 the way that the USF Tampa Library is. However, we don’t have access to renovation funds that USF Tampa made available to the library there so we will have to secure funding from other sources and move forward more slowly.

Our goal is to create a more flexible, vibrant, connected space for all of our students based on what students themselves have told us they want. Please give us your input, either when you are asked for it or whenever something occurs to you. This library and everyone in it is here first and foremost to help the students of this university succeed.