A “learning garden” and ground-floor “social learning space” will be among the many changes coming soon to the University of Lincoln’s library, says its director.
The Linc spoke to Ian Snowley, the university’s head of library and learning resources, about the future of the library, and what it will mean to students and staff.
He joined the university in September, and his last job was working at the British Library as the head of higher education, which meant he was able to go and see “most university libraries in the UK”.
One of the most visible changes will be a radical redevelopment of the library’s ground floor, which will see it transformed into what Snowley calls a “library hub”.
“We have work already in the pipeline to make the ground floor more of a student-centred, social learning space,” Snowley says.
“The crucial thing with the library hub is we want to create a space that’s really flexible. Somewhere that the students can come to, and reconfigure the furniture themselves, where we can learn from experience and change the focus, say between fixed PC, and laptop and [wireless] use.
“We really want a space that will actually keep changing and evolving right from the first day it’s open.”
While the university shop has moved out from the ground floor of the library, that space may continue in a similar sort of role, Snowley says: “I see that as quite an important shop front for the library, and I do want it to kind of reflect the rest of the view of the library so we do want to change how it looks.
“But, given that we’re open routinely to midnight, and that we’ll be open right through the night very soon, I do want to see it turn into what is called a vending café. Not something that we can staff initially, but certainly somewhere that students can go to get a coffee, some soup, some snacks, or whatever, and just break out from their study space.
“I think the important thing is we know that studying nowadays goes hand-in-hand with a large coffee, and I think we want to make sure there’s somewhere where students can get that, and obviously most other places aren’t open that late, or are just a little bit too far away.”
Another prominent change will be the creation of a “learning garden” between the library and the river. “We’ll want to soften it up, put some suitable furniture, and maybe screen it in such a way that it feels comfortable to use… We’d like to see people coming into the library but also studying around us, and using some of the other outside spaces.”
Getting people to use the library’s resources from outside the actual building is something its staff are very keen to do. Paul Stainthorp, the e-resources librarian, told The Linc a similar sort of thing when we spoke to him in September.
Snowley seems equally enthusiastic to see this happen: “We’d like the library to exist in the virtual learning environment and Blackboard as much as it exists as a physical place, but that really means working closely with faculties [and] getting the resources we can provide as closely embedded in the teaching and learning experience as possible.”
He also says that the academic subject librarians are “very crucial in terms of learning development within the university”, and points out the “whole range of services [they offer] to students”, including “one-on-one tuition on information resources”.
As Stainthorp did, Snowley says the academic subject librarians “have done a lot of work on RefWorks, a [piece of] bibliographic management software”, which they hope will make referencing while writing essays and dissertations easier for students.
He also thinks that one way the library can distinguish itself is through its archive resources. The University of Lincoln will host journalist John Pilger’s archive, as well as The Lincolnshire Echo’s. The library’s staff will be important in making sure “they’re accessible in the right way, and that the right expertise has gone into building them”.
The Lincolnshire Echo archive in particular, he says, “[is] a huge opportunity for the university to preserve an important part of this area’s history, and also to provide a really serious research resource.
“We’re kind of in an interesting time, because those are perhaps the first sort of really serious archive resources that have hit the headlines in the university. There have been plenty of other special collections that we have, but these have really got a lot of attention, and one of the things that I’m very keen to do is develop the library’s focus on archives and special collections in the future.
“It’s very clear to me that, in essence, any one institution can buy any [electronic] or print resources that it can afford, but only one institution can host the Echo archive or the John Pilger archive, so those become very important points of distinction for us. I think archives and special collections are a very important part of what we’ll be doing in the future, and they very much support the research agenda that the university has.”
This fits in very neatly with the vision Professor Mary Stuart, the new vice-chancellor, has for the university. She says that Lincoln “[needs] to have particular strengths in research”, and as these research resources are unique to the university this fits into another of Professor Stuart’s goals: for Lincoln to be recognised worldwide.
You can listen to the whole interview with Ian Snowley on our podcast feed.Tweet