Re-Envisioning the Millersville University Library: Center for Knowledge Creation and Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Re-Envisioning the Millersville University Library: Center for Knowledge Creation and Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Marilyn McKinley Parrish (Millersville University, USA) and Greg Szczyrbak (Millersville University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2673-7.ch012


A scheduled infrastructure upgrade to an academic library building offered the opportunity for library faculty and staff at Millersville University to consider and implement a vision of a re-imagined library for the 21st century. With dramatic changes in learning spaces in higher education facilities since the building was designed and built in the 1960s, education, advocacy, and collaboration became central components of the planning process. This case study examines the design process of a library renovation project at a mid-sized regional comprehensive master’s-granting institution in south central Pennsylvania. The building of new partnerships, positive and persistent communication, and interdisciplinary collaboration strengthened the design process and set the stage for innovative uses of the new facility.
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Organizational Background

Millersville University was founded in 1855 in south central Pennsylvania as a normal school focused on teacher education. It is now a regional comprehensive master’s granting institution with a strong education and liberal arts focus and over 8,700 students. The current university library building is situated at the center of campus and has been a busy location for study and research since its doors opened in 1967. The university is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Individual building renovations at member universities are scheduled on a once every forty years basis. The library building, a fortress-like structure made of brick and concrete with gun-slit windows, is overdue for the complete renovation currently underway (Figure 1). Technology needs of 21st-century learners could not be accommodated in this building due to insufficient electricity and technology infrastructure. In addition, inflexible spaces inhibited students’ ability for innovative, interdisciplinary collaboration around existing and newly created knowledge. This case study focuses on the design process of the library renovation project at Millersville University.

Figure 1.

Photo of current library building

As a result of recent administrative restructuring due to budget constraints, the library is now part of a new division alongside Information Technology, under the Vice President for Information Resources. Where previously the library director reported to the Provost and sat on Dean’s Council, the Vice President for Information Resources is now acting as library director, and library concerns are represented at the President’s Cabinet. The library currently has eleven staff members, ten full-time faculty members (one serves as library department chair), and one part-time adjunct faculty member. The university operates in a collective bargaining environment with positive relationships between the administration and the unions representing faculty and staff.

The nature of learning in higher education has changed significantly since the library building was designed and built 45 years ago. Collaborative research and inquiry about real-world issues and problems is now the norm with students utilizing a wide variety of technology-enhanced tools for research, collaboration, and presentation of findings to classmates and to community organizations in service-learning projects. The library has changed dramatically over this time period as well, offering new approaches to engage students in learning and to meet the needs of students for access to information in electronic form with growing collections of electronic resources including journals, e-books, and digital primary source materials.

Access to content in electronic form offers members of the university community the ability to work with library-provided information resources anywhere they have access to a network or wireless. Due to easy accessibility of electronic content for academic and scholarly publishing in most disciplines, there can be less need to come to the physical library building to access materials needed for research.

Despite this increased ease of access to content, the role of library faculty members has never been more important. Library faculty members work with classroom faculty colleagues in offering opportunities for students to develop information literacy and research skills and to engage creatively with library-provided electronic and physical content. Library faculty and staff members offer an essential set of skills in describing and providing access to physical and electronic resources. Library faculty members offer many instruction sessions each semester, reaching graduate students and undergraduate students at all levels. In addition, an active instruction program in Archives & Special Collections introduces students to research using primary source materials.

With ongoing changes in the world of publishing, accompanied by dramatically increasing prices of academic journals, libraries across the country are facing challenging fiscal realities relating to providing content for their communities. In order to meet these challenges, the Association of Research Libraries’ (ARL) Scholarly Communication program (2012):

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