Library Services, Fall 2015: Towards a Theater of Learning

| January 11, 2016

The library is moving steadily towards opening day for the Learning Theater, the facility that will occupy the entirety of the 150515_View 1_Plenary_TC (6)fourth floor of Russell Hall.   The space has been totally gutted, and construction of a fully functioning, high-tech venue for presentation, group activity, and deeply interactive constructivist educational experience is well under way; some sense of how it may ultimately look is suggested in final renderings by Shepley Bulfinch architects (left).  While infrastructure construction and the installation of sophisticated audio and visual technologies are ongoing, library staff and the academic community have been challenged to explore the educational potential of an immersive theatrical environment well beyond traditional notions of places (for example, classrooms) in which teaching and learning happen.

As services providers, my colleagues and I have put our minds to how best to make use of this extraordinary new library locus to enhance the delivery of research assistance and instruction to our users;NCSU Library on the most fundamental level, it seems clear that having access to state-of-the-art sound and light projection capabilities can greatly improve our presentation of research strategies and the optimal use of print and multimedia information resources well beyond what’s currently available to us in standard lecture or seminar spaces, and even more importantly it can facilitate students’ full participation and collaboration in the active learning process.

3d_printing_csu-think-box_46Having learned about exciting use of space in libraries such as that at North Carolina State University (above) and in higher education maker spaces such as the Think[Box] at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (left), I’ve gained some sense of how renovated and newly built structures have employed the best design thinking to provide diverse opportunities for innovation and discovery.

But the question remains, for those of us in Services, how to apply the new tools soon to be at our disposal to addressing the kinds of questions and research problems our patrons present us, how to transform our own thinking and that of our users by means of the space, and how ultimately to engage with our users in a truly collaborative reinvention of teaching and learning in the library.

To give you a sense of the one-on-one consultations we provided Teachers College (and some Columbia) students and researchers during Fall 2015, as a basis for speculation on how the Learning Theater might reshape how this service is delivered, here’s a sampling of research topics and areas of inquiry with which our users sought our help:

  • Visual methodologies in health education:  video as a learning tool to promote health.
  • Literature on how scientist and science educators conceptualize teachers’ knowledge (preferably elementary teachers) in the area of life sciences: ecosystems, interactions, energy and dynamics with a focus on food webs.
  • Literature on  theoretical frameworks, orientations, methods, and instruments that have been used to conceptualize and study K-12 science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and subject matter knowledge (SMK).
  • Metrics and evaluation methods for audiences in art museums.
  • Constructs of guilt and shame, and their relationship to whiteness and white guilt and white shame.
  • General background and history of teacher tenure, sources on recent trends in tenure reform, and sources about the intersection of litigation and education reform generally.
  • Climate change education in Kiribati; education about migration and adaptation to other cultures; teaching writing in predominantly oral cultures.
  • Effects of different math methodology classes on preservice teachers (particularly early childhood education); outcomes of different math methodology classes on preservice teachers’ math anxiety.
  • The anti-vaccination movement:  what kind of reasons cause the trust-crisis between government and people? How does it influence public health decision-making? How do people react?
  • The treatment of STEM education in popular media, including newspapers, advertisements, etc.
  •  Refugee education in Ecuador.
  • The implementation of pre kindergarten programs in NY and NYC:  trying to find additional sources on the forms early childhood programs have taken and more details on the process of implementation in NYC/NYS.
  • Classical artist management specifically targeted towards emerging classical artists.
  • Arts and culture in medical settings (hospitals/etc). with a focus on galleries and corporate collections.
  • Culturally tailored community behavioral health interventions; health education online modules or risk assessment instruments for mental health or brain health (dementia, etc.), output being health intervention module.
  • Studies about positive regard and the general demographic involved in the research so far.
  • How economics plays a role in the education system in Peru and how it specifically affects language education and learning.
  • evaluation of public programs in contemporary art museums:  methods used to measure success/long term goals.
  • The integration of art in curriculum for students with disabilities.
  • Finishing schools and academies for young women during the 1800s.
  • The subject of the line, art in our environment, and art in our everyday life:  how can the concept of the line in visual art apply to the way that we perceive and experience the line in our everyday environment.
  • The question of whether religion should be included in history curriculum.
  • How art museums are changing in the era of Big Data, and the impact data analysis is having for attendance rates.
  • Information on the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf (1957-1964) and Doreen Mende (Dutch Art Institute).
  • Support and inclusion of LGBTQ students in the art classroom.
  • The education system in North Sudan (teacher training, professional development , allocation of funds, teaching methods, etc.)
  • Integration of technology, such as iPads, in the classroom environment specifically middle school to 8th grade students
  • Murals and muralism in art education, historically and at present.
  • The Garifuna Language and Culture in Central America (Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua).
  • Cross-cultural differences between Anglo-American English and Indian English.
  • Technology-based learning in aiding immigrants in assimilating in a new culture; focusing on adult learning with the objective of assisting specifically in the case of refugees resettling in new cultures.
  • The intersection of urban climate change and poverty and how the scientific, ethical and educational issues are being addressed through Environmental Adult Education.
  • Tracking or ability grouping from a philosophy of education perspective (i.e., in relation to justice or equality).
  • Surveys/questionnaires about the influence of media on sexual behavior of girls or youth.

Unquestionably the new space will bring with it changes of all kinds, as with the renovation of the first, second, and third floors, which significantly raised the profile of the library and brought many new users to Russell Hall.  For the Fall 2015 semester, these are the number of transactions of various kinds that took place in the library’s physical and virtual spaces:

  • Senior Librarians and Services Associates fielded 1,794 in-person and phone reference queries.
  • Senior Librarians and Services Associates responded to 998 queries submitted via the library’s email Support Request service.
  • We provided 75 research consultations with individuals or small groups during the Fall.
  • Librarians presented 16 course-specific library information sessions, either in library spaces or in the classroom, for a total of 284 attendees.

We expect the inauguration of the fourth floor to affect the volume of service demands, as the completion of the last renovation did in 2004, and while it’s unclear to what extent this will have a direct impact of research and information provision, it seems self-evident that there will be new technologies to master and new expectations to accommodate, and it seems to me that these are challenges to be welcomed.