Wednesday, July 21, 2010

University of Minnesota Wilson Library

Since the University of Minnesota library system is one I admire – they have a powerful online presence and some amazing librarians presenting at conferences, I wanted to visit at least one of their libraries while in Minneapolis. I was told the Wilson Library was one of the main undergraduate libraries – I found out that it was the humanities and social sciences library. Since we are discussing our library space, I was mostly interested in service points and study space. The building has six floors. When you first walk in through the security gates, there is a circulation desk on the left, a reference desk on the right and a security desk with campus police straight ahead. 
When I took pictures of this, the security folks asked if I had taken their picture without permission, so I retook the picture without them in it and deleted the one where they were barely visible. That first floor has the reference area- a collection slightly smaller than ours, alternating high and low shelving units – and the Smart Learning Commons. Since this is one of the new buzz words, I asked the reference librarian about it. It is basically a computer lab with a few more intense pieces of equipment for scanning and media work. You can see it behind the security desk and comfy chairs in the picture on the right. This Smart commons is staffed by students – helping with what seemed mostly IT issues. I have to read up on it more closely.
The reference librarian said that the Walker Library, that is the science and engineering library has a more extensive Smart Commons, but that was already closed and I was leaving town.

Group study space.
They have quite a bit of group study space on the three main floors above the first floor. Though they have plenty of 4 people tables in rows on each of these floors (see right), all the space designated as group study space is behind doors and usually glass enclosures. There was at least one if not two long group study rooms along the windows of each of these floors. There were various types of tables, chairs on wheels, some of those comfy chars with attached tablets, which looked like they were used by pairs working together. On one floor one of these long rooms was designated a deep study space – no cell phones or computers allowed. Then there were a few regular small rooms designated as group study rooms on each floor. No keys, first come first serve. I didn’t see any presentation equipment, and I don’t think they had computers in there either. In general there were a few computers on each floor, but I would guess the total was less than we have in Waldo, even at our reduced numbers.
One other thing I liked about the space for students. Their comfy chairs are in these homey spaces with mellow colors, home like wooden furniture and incandescent lamps. Wonder if this could be an answer to those who say our library is sterile.

The level below the first floor contained periodicals – current, bound, and microfilms. Looks like thye have not cancelled print subscriptions. On the other side were government documents, which included UN and Canadian documents. Half the shelves were empty, and it looked like they were doing a major move.I didn’t look for anyone to ask. On the very bottom floor they have an East Asia Collection, South Asia collection, James Ford Bell Library (history of international trade before 1800), and an Annex, which I did not understand. They keep older materials here that are fragile, art books that tend to be vandalized, and some oversized books. A substantial part of the collection was still in Dewey, and that was located on the upper floors of Wilson Library. Since they have such a decentralized library system, they must have rare books in each. I know they have various archives and rare books in undergraound vaults, but I will have to go online and see what I can figure out – or Ask their Librarian.

The instruction classroom was down on this second lower level. Seemed out of the way, but maybe they do instruction elsewhere. Or I seem to recall at conferences the librarians saying that they can't possibly get to all the students in actual classrooms, so they have perfected more of their online help.