With Information Technology’s move into Scribner Library almost complete, the full possibilities of the academic vision behind their alliance are plain to see.
October 3, 2012
Much has changed since the College’s last renovation of the Lucy Scribner Library
in 1995, most of all the way we access, create, store, and communicate information.
It has been clear for some time that Skidmore needed to provide richer opportunities
for synergies across the Library and the IT divisions to support the new needs of
learners and teachers in the 21st century.
The relocation last year of Media Services and its popular digital media lab from cramped, windowless quarters in Palamountain Hall to an expansive new space on the lower level of Scribner Library gave the Skidmore community its first inkling of where the Library’s burgeoning alliance with the Information Technology Department would lead. Suddenly, students who were creating complex productions in multi-media formats had a comfortable, fully equipped facility available. Students also could now work on academic projects with print and digital resource collections close at hand, with librarians and Writing Center staff to assist.
But more was to come. Much more.
With the completion of the latest phase of the project in late August, the full vision that inspired the Board of Trustees to support the fast-tracking of IT’s relocation now can be plainly seen. Building on Scribner’s rich history as the campus’s physical and intellectual center – the source of multiple kinds of information – and a gathering place for private study, research and collaborative work, the project strengthens the library’s role in the digitally rich world of the 21st century. Exploring possibilities for deeper collaborations between the two divisions, the project aims to preserve the powerful expertise within each while fostering collaboration to increase the effectiveness of both.
The library now houses:
- Media Services;
- the Instructional Technologies Center;
- the Geographical Information Systems Center for Interdisciplinary Research;
- the Reference Desk;
- the Writing Center;
- the Help Desk;
- the ESL Office;
- two new electronic classrooms, one chiefly for experimental courses and the other for library instruction;
- the Eric Weller Room, with resources for faculty development;
- a new “media viewing room” with a large screen and upholstered chairs.
Expanding the capacity of the library by 250 seats, the project also has provided
new computer work stations for students and 25 group study spaces, each with a wall-mounted
The centralization of these offices, labs, and services means that students can easily access expert assistance on written and multi-media projects and assignments.
For faculty, the placement of the Instructional Technologies Center near the Eric Weller Room provides a digitally and information-rich environment for curricular experimentation and development. In addition, the Weller Room is the home of the Faculty Network Facilitator, the Faculty Interest Groups, and the Faculty Writing Groups.
While some print materials needed to be relocated to the nearby Hoge Building in order to make space for all the additional services and study rooms, those materials are still readily accessible, and the trade-off seems well worth making for the benefits now available.
More work will be done throughout the current academic year to create additional IT offices, primarily in spaces that are not directly used by students and faculty. When that is completed, IT will vacate totally the space it formerly occupied in Harder Hall, making it available for other purposes to be determined.
By reconfiguring the stacks, the new library design makes better use of natural light by allowing tables where students work to be located closer to windows. New lighting throughout the building is more energy efficient and better illuminates the library’s collection and study areas.
Also, a new room-reservation system enables student to check on the availability of group study rooms and to book a room up to 24 hours in advance.
Susan Kress, vice president for academic affairs until her recent retirement, and Michael West, vice president for finance and administration, worked closely with Ruth Copans, college librarian, and Justin Sipher, chief technology officer until his recent departure to St. Lawrence University, in planning the project. They started with this question: “What is the ideal relationship between our library and IT operations to support 21st century learning and teaching?”
The answer is clear to all who use the services of each department.
Built in 1966 with 50,000 square feet of usable space, Scribner Library was the first academic building to be constructed on the College’s Jonsson Campus. Thirty years later, the College added another 25,000 square feet to the building. That expansion made the latest renovation possible, said Michael Cohen, with Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects.
Although Scribner’s collection of printed material grows at a rate of about 1.5 percent annually, the building “should be good for another 20 years,” he said.
Students differ on the improvements they like most. “It’s now much more open and welcoming,” said Sarah Minney ’13, a neuroscience major. “I also love that there are so many more computers on the first floor. It's no longer overcrowded on busy nights.”
Kevin Berry ’15, a theater major, likes the online system that enables students to reserve from their dorm room any of the 25 new collaborative study spaces. And the new media viewing room, he said, is “spectacular.”
Scribner Library clearly remains the heart of the campus, supporting and nourishing the academic life of the entire community.