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Kate Edger Information Commons (Ururangi)
The University of Auckland, Te Whare Wananga o Tamaki Makaurau Print-friendly
  Goal

The Kate Edger Information Commons was established in a central location on the main city campus of The University of Auckland in April 2003 in order to create a multipurpose, student-focused, integrated learning environment. The facility provides:

  • a variety of study and computer work spaces (individual and group) that suit diverse student learning styles
  • easy access to information resources and technologies
  • support to students from multiskilled staff
  • consolidation of complementary learning support resources in a single location.

 

The Kate Edger Information Commons is designed to facilitate student achievement and enable students to acquire and further develop information literacy, IT, language and learning skills, supported wherever appropriate by state-of-the-art technological resources. It combines a new space with some existing student-learning services and some new, innovative services.

 

With the existing Library space at a premium, re-configuration of space not a cost-effective option, and total student numbers increasing by about 50% in the previous decade, the University decided that a new purpose-built facility was the best approach to meeting its objectives. This also allowed the closely proximate General Library to focus on serving the needs of staff and students in the large enrolment faculties of Business and Economics, Arts, and Science; it also houses Special Collections and central infrastructural services for the entire Library system. Thirteen subject-specific libraries complete the system.

 

The modern glass, steel and concrete building is a landmark on busy Symonds Street

 

Source: www.information-commons.auckland.ac.nz/?page=gallery

 

A gallery of photographs of the Information Commons building and facilities can be viewed at the following web site: www.information-commons.auckland.ac.nz/?page=gallery.

  Context

An 'information commons' is an integrated and collaborative learning support environment, which provides a holistic approach to student learning by integrating the facilities, tools, resources and expertise of learning support providers, such as IT professionals, librarians, learning advisors, instructional technologists, multimedia producers, language advisors, writing advisors and others. The focus is on integrating research, teaching and learning activities within the digital and physical environments.

 

Developments in information technology and the changing student profile have prompted universities, and particularly university libraries, to reconsider the learning and teaching support they provide. The past decade has brought an increasing rate of computer use for learning, teaching, research and communication and led to significant changes in student characteristics, needs and expectations.

 

The impact of the digital revolution on the university library sector is evident in the:

  • proliferation of electronic content delivered and supported anywhere and at any time via web-based services
  • creation of institutional repositories
  • transformation or emergence of physical facilities to address the pervasive impact of technology on resources, services, facilities and customers. (An example of such a facility is the Information Commons.)

 

The Information Commons concept also reflects more sophisticated understandings of the diverse ways in which students choose to learn, and how a variety of learning support services and mechanisms interact with learning styles. The Information Commons is fast becoming a mainstream approach to providing a student-centred virtual and physical environment, suitable for all styles of learning and research.

 

The principal challenge in designing and implementing the Kate Edger Information Commons rests in its innovative bringing together of three components:

  • the custom-built building provides a flexible study environment
  • the appropriate technologies and 'student desktop' software
  • the integrated learning support services readily available, close to the workstations.

The success of the project involved establishing and maintaining a close collaboration between the University Library, IT Directorate, English Language Self-Access Centre and Student Learning Centre.

  Practice

The design of the Kate Edger Information Commons at The University of Auckland (see the web site: www.information-commons.auckland.ac.nz/.) was modelled on international best practice for these types of facilities, with the innovation of having a separate building rather than forming a part of an existing library. The General Library, the largest of 14 libraries at the University of Auckland, is located conveniently across the street. Students were also consulted on various aspects of the design, including furniture and facilities for students with disabilities.

 

Each of the five levels of the facility has a distinct function, catering for different learning needs, styles and preferences. Together, they provide an integrated suite of learning resources and services for students, particularly undergraduate students. The facilities include: group and individual study spaces, electronic classrooms, short loan or high demand collection (one to two hour loans), a resource room for students with disabilities, and casual seating areas. Technology accessible to students includes approximately 500 multipurpose computer workstations, and printers, scanners and photocopiers. Students may also borrow laptops, headphones, and portable floppy-disk drives. A fact sheet provides basic data. For further information, see the web site at: www.information-commons.auckland.ac.nz/?page=keic_faq#facts.

 

Quiet study spaces

 

Source: www.information-commons.auckland.ac.nz/?page=gallery

 

In keeping with the principle of integration, students also have access to a variety of learning-support providers. These include the Student Learning Centre, which offers workshops and resources to strengthen academic and learning skills, and the English Language Self-Access Centre (ELSAC), which provides support and resources to develop English-language skills. In addition, students can access an extensive suite of information and IT literacy courses coordinated by the Library.

 

The Information Commons Help Service provides student support all the hours the Information Commons is open. The service consists of a very visible 'IC Helpdesk', providing walk-in support to students, and also has consultants who provide a roving consultation service, assisting students using the workstations. The consultants are fellow students with both good technical knowledge and well developed information skills. For more information see the web site: www.information-commons.auckland.ac.nz/?pm=2.

 

The opening hours are 7am to midnight weekdays and 8am to 10pm on weekends. Guidelines govern the use of Information Commons facilities, for information on these see the web site at: www.information-commons.auckland.ac.nz/?page=guidelines.

 

The Kate Edger Information Commons also provides a consistent computing platform for students' general purpose computing needs, with priority given to software that will help students to find information and integrate it into coursework. Access is provided to email and the internet, as well as productivity software for documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. An Information Commons Software Governance Group (with technical, academic, library and student representatives) monitors software use, evaluates requests for additional software and recommends changes as appropriate.

 

Student feedback and ongoing quality monitoring have resulted in several improvements being made since the Kate Edger Information Commons was opened. Students can now use a computerised booking system to book computers for relatively short periods of time. A wireless environment was made operational throughout the building to facilitate use of student laptops. A new 'laptops for loan' service was also introduced, which has proved very popular. A full-colour student guide to the facility was produced in 2004, based on frequently asked student queries.

 

The Information Commons concept was extended through the opening of a second facility at the University's Grafton campus in 2004, and the Maori Information Commons (Te Hukatai) in late 2003.

  Evidence of Success

All individual workstations were quickly filled to capacity on day one of the Kate Edger Information Commons' opening, even prior to a formal notice to students that the facility was opened. In 2004, occupancy in the Information Commons facilities was consistently the highest among all Library locations, averaging 77%.

 

In student surveys of both undergraduates and postgraduates, the Kate Edger Information Commons is consistently given the highest satisfaction rating of any University service/facility evaluated.

 

The building has received several local and national architectural awards.

 

Figure 1., below, shows some key data from 2004 to illustrate the popularity of the Kate Edger Information Commons:

 

Figure 1.

 

Attendance at generic information skills courses increased 22% in 2004. The relocation of the ELSAC to the Kate Edger Information Commons contributed to a 250% increase in registered users in 2004.

 

Taken together, the University judges that the evidence to date indicates the Information Commons has responded in a creative and integrated way to contemporary student-learning needs.

  Resources Required

Resources included the following:

  • information technology infrastructure and operational support
  • in terms of staffing, the budget for the Information Commons HelpDesk team (manager, supervisors and consultants) and IT systems support staff is approximately $600,000 (NZ) annually
  • computers, laptops, printers, scanners and photocopiers; computer leases cost about $466,000 (NZ) annually
  • initial costs from capital budget for establishment of the Information Commons
  • ongoing costs funded from the recurrent budget.

 

Further information on resources is provided in the 'Practice' section.

  Contact
Name Mrs Hester Mountifield
Position Library Manager, Learning Services
Work Phone +64 9 373 7599 (ext 88050)
Fax +64 9 373 7950
Email h.mountifield@auckland.ac.nz
Contributor Website www.auckland.ac.nz
Validating body NZUAAU
Reference document The University of Auckland, Te Whare Wananga o Tamaki Makaurau, Academic Audit Report
Commendation # 8
Date this GP Posted 13 January 2006
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