The 21st century university library is a new and different kind of library. No longer just a building housing books and study space, today’s university library is also home to a wide range of student support services. While many of these services are library-related, like research help, library instruction sessions, interlibrary loan and document delivery, universities are placing other academic support services within the library building. Writing centers, presentation skills centers, video production labs, and data management services are now found in many libraries. In a very broad sense, the university library has become a hub of student learning.
The reason for this change often has to do with the library’s presence on campus. The typical university library is centrally located, open longer hours than other campus buildings, and regarded by students and faculty as a place to get help. It is open to everyone; access to its space and services is not limited to particular programs, or to certain groups of students. Its reputation as an open, comfortable, and service-oriented space makes it an ideal home for other service units sharing this same student support philosophy.
Housing these units in the same building makes sense because they are complimentary to one another. For many students, doing library research on a topic is followed by writing a research paper or preparing a presentation. It’s beneficial when the place to get help with your writing and your speech are in the same building. In this way, the library supports the student research process, from start to finish.
Here are a few recent projects which have helped the CMU Libraries transform into a hub for 21st century learning.
Relocated Writing and Math Centers
The CMU Writing Center and the Mathematics Assistance Center have been housed in the library for years, offering students a convenient place to get help with their writing and those often tricky math assignments. In the summer of 2017, both centers moved down from their long-time homes in the northwest corner of the 4th floor to newer spaces on the south end of the 3rd floor. Located just off the atrium, both centers now enjoy more flexible, larger spaces in a highly visible location. The centers are enjoying their new homes and are very popular with students seeking help with their assignments and projects.
Musical Chairs on the 3rd Floor
The Presentation Skills Center debuted on the 3rd floor of the Park Library in November 2017. This center provides valuable feedback to students as they prepare for their upcoming speeches and presentations. With so many classes and programs requiring individual and group presentations, the Presentation Skills Center provides essential support to students.
Late in 2018, the first steps were taken on a plan which would have a domino effect on the Presentation Skills Center and two other 3rd floor student support units. While Room 319 served as a good first home for the Presentation Skills Center, it wouldn’t meet its needs in the long term. So, the library created a new space for the center in Room 308, right across the hall from the Writing Center.
The Testing Center, which provides test-taking space for students in online courses, then moved from its home in Room 321 into the former Presentation Skills Center space. Its new space is larger and offers more flexibility than Room 321. And the Testing Center needs the extra space because the standardized testing center formerly located in the basement of Robinson Hall was recently combined with the library’s testing center to provide students with a convenient, one-stop testing destination.
The third space, the Statistical Consulting Center, literally moved around a corner from Rooms 324 and 325 into Room 321. It combined its operations into a single room, which will help them better serve faculty and students needing help with statistical analysis. All three service centers are now housed in larger spaces more suited to their needs, allowing them to better serve their clientele.
CETL and the Academic Senate
On the 4th floor of the Park Library you’ll find two units designed to support faculty and their teaching. The Curriculum and Instructional Support unit includes the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which provides ongoing training and learning opportunities for CMU’s teaching faculty. The Academic Senate, housed in Room 400, represents a shared effort by the CMU Faculty, Provost, President, and selected students to oversee the university’s curriculum and enhance the academic experience for students and faculty.
By offering a variety of support services, CMU’s Park Library truly is a hub of 21st century learning.