New Tools; Familiar Values

It’s no secret (based on my work history, my writing, and my presenting) that I am very interested in the future of libraries and how libraries can shift their thinking in light of today’s–and the coming–information environment. However, even as I am focused on adaptation and change, I have a strong interest in how to stay true to our core values while adapting to the larger environment. This balancing act has even turned into one of the themes in my professional involvement.

I have a real interest in sustainable change: how to help organizations adapt to a changing information environment in a way that is appropriate for the community and in a way that will stick. I’ve been involved with this in a number of capacities, and always look forward to that type of opportunity. And one of the tools I rely on is translating the potential of new ideas within the context of traditional values.

Online Education Can Mean Close, Personal Relationships

I’ve spent some time in my past life thinking about how online education is an easier sell in a face-to-face culture when you focus on how an online environment can actually enhance the relationships between the faculty and the students. Online might be threatening and disruptive, but you can design an online environment in which people have extremely high-quality relational interactions. It takes time, but it is doable. And it’s incredibly rewarding. And it’s a way to demonstrate that high tech instruction does not necessarily mean no touch instruction.

New Service Spaces Can Mean More Patron Privacy

Likewise, as I think of spaces for various library transactions, I’ve been thinking about how privacy is so important in our field. And traditional service points do not necessarily tell the user that they’ll have privacy. Standing at a tall desk, speaking loudly enough to the person on the other side, gives the impression that anyone might know your question. In fact, standing at the desk tells the people around you that you need help of some sort. As libraries consider new furniture and make design decisions about space, it’s possible that users might actually have more privacy in their interactions–again something that might make a change easier to feel comfortable with.

High Tech Classrooms Can Mean More Personalized/Human Educational Experiences

But the thing that has actually spurred this line of thinking at this point in time is our amazing new SCALE-UP classroom at the Virginia Tech Libraries. It’s really incredible. As a teacher, and as someone who approaches most things with an (instructional) design perspective, it’s so exciting to think about all the possibilities that the space opens up. And it’s so promising to have space like this in a library. Most often it’s in a science, or maybe engineering, space. However, in a building that serves the entire academic community, it opens the doors to thinking about how this type of space might enhance learning across disciplines. I can already think of all kinds of social science and humanities scenarios, and that’s just because those are home to my own academic disciplines. There are clear cases for business, for example, as well.

SCALE-UP is another one of these new, possibly disruptive, tools. It’s fancy: eight monitors, the ability to project from nine different computers, and the ability to change what’s displayed on each monitor with a quick tap to a touch screen. The tech is fairly easy to use, but that’s only because the heavy tech lifting was done in the design and set up. And the tech is so nice it’s easy to see it as a technology room. But when I think of SCALE-UP, what I actually think of is a very human-oriented educational experience. It’s about the conversations that take place around the eight tables. It’s about small groups collaborating, and the sharing ideas with the larger room. It’s about the instructor being able to tailor what they say to a smaller group, based on the smaller group’s needs. And all of that is something that would appeal to the most traditional of teachers. It’s new, but it has the potential to be a compelling option for anyone with traditional academic values.

So, anyway, that’s what’s been rolling around in my head for the past little bit. That in all kinds of new developments, we’re doing amazing and innovative things, but we’re doing it from the same core place: meeting the needs of our users. We just have so many more options to do so at this point in time!

Meanwhile, In The Day Job

Things are going well. I’m getting my feet on the ground in the new position, and loving it. It’s great to be back at a large, public, land-grant, technical institution. I’m inspired by the library’s vision and goals. I’m working with incredibly nice people and beginning to actually find my way around the building and campus. I’m in a period of intense learning, which is a really nice way to get started. I’m sure there will be more about actual projects in the future, but for now, just know: you should check in with the libraries at Virginia Tech over the next few years. Really amazing work is going on here.

My name is Lauren Pressley. This is where I think out loud, document what I'm doing, and share the things that I like. I'm the Director for Learning Environments at Virginia Tech University Libraries and author of a few books. This blog focuses on libraries, education, information, & the internet. When not at work or blogging, I spend most of my time with John and our son, Leif.

2 thoughts on “New Tools; Familiar Values

  1. High tech classrooms have interested me for a while now. About 10 years ago I was asked to speak to a group of students across the State of Arkansas about serials, publishers and subscription agencies and how we all worked together. It was the first time I had done this presentation via distant learning campuses and I remember being so blown away at the technology. One, I was in Arkansas and two it was so cool how we were all having conversations all across the state at various campuses. This was well before Skype was the norm on college campuses.

    I recall being intrigued by the way each campus had it’s own personality. Some campuses were highly engaged, others looked like they were watching TV, and one group looked like my old high school study hall – having fun and enjoying their own conversations.

    It’s always fun reading about the new technologies that are available and seeing how they are being utilized…whether in the library or in the classroom. It’s also fun seeing how more people can be reached but how the best teaching is interactive.

    Love your blog, by the way!

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