Innovation on a Shoe String: High Impact Space and Technology Updates in a Low-Funding Environment

Innovation on a Shoe String: High Impact Space and Technology Updates in a Low-Funding Environment

Joan Petit (Portland State University, USA) and Thomas Bielavitz (Portland State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2673-7.ch013


Even in a low-funding and space-constrained environment, Portland State University (PSU) Library has created and renovated new technology-rich learning spaces for students. Collaboration with other campus departments and an entrepreneurial spirit were essential for many of these efforts. First, the library developed a list of desired improvements and space use ideas. Then, the library used a phased approach, taking advantage of opportunities and planning for others as possible, resulting in a series of high-impact space updates. PSU Library offers a space-planning model that allows academic libraries to be agile, entrepreneurial, and collaborative, and to improve learning spaces in a difficult economic environment.
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Literature Review

A recent trend in higher education has been to build or renovate academic library spaces to incorporate new technologies and collaborative study and work environments. These spaces reflect the ways in which modern scholars and researchers learn and communicate. In the 1990s, many libraries began to adopt the information commons model. Beagle, Bailey, and Tierney (2006) provided a historical perspective as well as a definition: “Information Commons is used to denote a new type of physical facility or section of a library specifically designed to organize workspace and service delivery around an integrated digital environment and the technology that supports it” (p. 3).

In the 2000s, the information commons movement continued as many leaders called for greater collaboration between the library and other academic units. Wilson (2002) outlined a clear rationale for this: “Collaboration is key if librarians are to educate their clientele to be critical and self-sufficient users of information. No one alone has the expertise to address the full range of information literacies…” (p. 1). Lippincott (2004) emphasized the difference between true collaboration and the simple co-location of the library and other student learning and support departments, such as tutoring, writing centers, media centers, and information technology. Most usefully, Lippincott identified barriers to collaboration and provided examples of successful partnerships.

Sinclair (2007) defined key elements of evolving information commons, named “Commons 2.0.” The guiding principles of this new wave of information commons are that they are “open, free, comfortable, inspiring, and practical” (Guiding Principles, para. 1):

Technologies, media formats, and gadgets will certainly come and go, but our continued investment in computer-enhanced pedagogy is critical. We have only just begun to understand the impact that the Internet and interactive technologies will have on education and learning. In this global community, where information can be shared instantaneously and the ability to work together and understand each other is critical to our collective future, the trend toward collaboration and group learning may be one of the most important issues facing universities today. We must be willing to understand and be responsive to the needs of our community of learners. Our library spaces must continue to evolve if we want to have a place in tomorrow's university and world. (Guiding Principles, para. 7)

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