Saturday, May 12, 2012

University of Michigan Libraries

I cannot pass up the opportunity to visit libraries when I am at conferences, and I had heard about renovations that University of Michigan had done to both its undergrad and grad libraries, so after the MLA Academic Librarians conference I went to take a look.

Shapiro Undergraduate Library has the new cafe - Bert's Cafe, named after the donor. As you walk in the door, there is a sharply angled information desk in front of you, the cafe with various seating arrangements to your left, and some comfy chairs and numerous screens flashing library and university news. The information desk functions like ours, but it also has books that are on hold for people.

Then there are doors into the library proper, where the first thing people see is the reference desk, with a minimal reference collection in low curved shelves. Actually, most of the book shelves on this floor were curved and you could see over them. Right next to the reference collection there was a small new book area, and on the other side about 24 work stations. The center of this large room was filled with rows and rows of tables. (Would love to see how this area works at finals time.) Then towards the back there was a magazine collection, and a browsing book collection. (Yes, yes, we need this!) The literature section was in, guess what? - alphabetic order by author! What a concept! The non-fiction was by call number, but had labels - history, psychology, cookbooks, biology, etc. The books were new or popular and often in paperback.

The most surprising area to me was Reserves. These were in open stacks along the back wall of this main room. I talked to the person working at the circulation desk, also in the back, and she explained that they have had this set-up for about a year, since they remodeled. Students just take the books they need and read them on the spot. They can check them out for four hours and then leave the library with them. Any material owned by an instructor, and a few of the very popular books are kept in a locked cabinet behind the desk, but the cabinet was only about 4 x 6 feet. Books on CD were also in these open stacks. I asked if U of M students were competitive enough to hog reserve materials, and she just said that U of M students ARE competitive, so I would love to talk to someone more about any issues they have had with open reserves.

This floor had three group study rooms, one presentation, one editing room, one reflection/meditation room, an Adaptive Technology Computing Site (like our METL lab) and a fairly large partitioned room for project support. They advertised help with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Word, PowerPoint, RefWorks and video editing. I could see a poster printer in there.

The second floor had 12 group study rooms that I could see, and it looked like they were almost all in use even now in the summer.

I didn't spend much time in the Hatcher Graduate Library, but walked into an impressive space from the bridge from Shapiro - the Stephen S. Clark Library for maps, government documents and digital imaging (mostly GIS related.)  Hatcher is an old beautiful building with a huge old fashioned reading room, as we once had in the North Hall.

I was mostly interested in the lower level, where they had moved out the technical services offices to create a gallery space. I heard it does not get used enough, but there was an area for performances, nice permanent exhibit space called the Audobon room, but there was an exhibit of the Labadie anarchist materials (that were referred to by the last speaker at the conference), there was an instruction classroom, and movable exhibit walls with an exhibit on languages that looked interesting. The fourth floor had an elegant Asian Library.

Enough for a short visit. We at Western need to keep talking about our own space and take a clean floor plan of the first floor Waldo and decide what and where we really need things.

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