Wimberly Library 5th Floor Transformation: Phase One

On Wednesday, May 31, 2017, the Wimberly Library opened up part of the 5th floor to unrestricted use all the hours that the building is open. For many years, the 5th floor of the Wimberly Library has been underutilized. The space had consisted of a few staff offices; collections for the Recorded Sound Archives and University Archives (which had a number of duplicative materials, as well as many items not within our collection parameters); an open seating/presentation space used fewer than a dozen times a year with a stage and a piano; and the attached Weiner Spirit of America suite which includes the University Club Boardroom, a vault for rare materials, and some exhibition cases. Phase One of the 5th floor transformation focused on the open space outside the Weiner Suite.

When events were previously held in the open space, there was limited, cramped seating and staff always had to unlock the elevators to allow people to come to the event and then relock the elevators after the event was finished.

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Crowded seating during an event held in the fifth floor prior to the renovation

At all other times, the space was accessible only to those staff who had a special key or fob that would allow the elevators to go to the 5th floor. With the rest of the library being so heavily used, with students having to sit on the floor between book stacks at times,

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Students sitting on the floor between book stacks in the Wimberly Library

the need for transforming the fifth-floor space was self-evident. The students sit on the floor throughout the building both because there isn’t enough space

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Students creating their own group-study space on the floor in another part of Wimberly

and they are trying to get access to the limited number of power outlets in a facility that was built before everyone had a computer or other device that needed power to run.

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Students cluster around power outlets in other parts of Wimberly

In the budget cycle of spring 2016, I submitted a request to “redesign the 5th floor of the Wimberly Library to expand public space and secure collections and staff work spaces in order to open it to students and the public all hours that the Library is open. The 5th floor is the only space sufficiently large and open to provide a venue for events and presentations. With this redesign, the Library could host a wider array of student, faculty, and community presentations, as well as provide much-needed open study space when not in use for events and presentations.” The University recognized the need and provided a generous, one-time allocation of $250,000 for the project. A donation of $10,000 from the Lifelong Learning Society in 2016 allowed us to get a jumpstart on the renovation with repainting the main room in the public area of the fifth floor.

A subset of the Libraries’ Space Allocation Committee, led by Special Collections department head Vicky Thur, worked closely with me and with the University’s Design and Construction Services staff, under the leadership of Director Numa Rais, to design the space, review flooring and furnishings, and oversee the project details. Before work could start, collections had to be de-duped, consolidated, and reorganized. Staff work areas were also consolidated to align better with their functions, and unused furniture and equipment were removed. A glass wall was pushed back (shown in the image below) and the open floor space was increased from 2166.72 square feet to 4362.72 square feet.

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During the renovation, lines on the old carpeting  show where the glass walls used to be

The vision that guided phase one of the fifth floor transformation, was to:

  • Transform a restricted-access space used for staff, storage, & occasional events
  • Develop an open, multi-purpose space to be used by students and faculty
  • Build in flexibility so the space can be easily transformed for events
  • Reduce storage space & increase the available square footage
  • Add new seating emphasizing aesthetics, comfort, & function
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Comfortable booths with lightweight privacy screens

  • Brand it as FAU space with colors & logos
  • Accommodate individual & group study
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Examples of individual and group seating areas now available

 

  • Increase access to power & wi-fi

 

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Installation of new carpeting and under-the-floor tracks that provide expanded access to power

  • Maximize use of natural lighting

 

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New seating areas that take advantage of natural light

  • Ensure good presentation capabilities

The study furniture is designed to be stacked and quickly moved out of the way when lectures and presentations are planned. The back wall and podium (shown in the image below) are in place for talks and for projecting presentations.

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Tables fold up and stack to reconfigure the room quickly for presentations and the wall serves as the projection screen with a speaker’s podium off to the side

On opening day of the new space, students immediately began to take advantage of the new space and make themselves comfortable, as we hoped they would.

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Student making herself at home in the new space

By fall 2017, the Libraries will have a policy and request form in place for special events to be held in the space, but with the focus being on events that are open to FAU’s students and that do not disrupt the students’ need to have adequate study space, especially during key parts of the semester.

The next phase of the fifth floor transformation will focus on redesigning the Weiner Suite and University Club boardroom to provide better exhibit space, a multi-purpose videoconferencing meeting room, and a lab where students can receive hands-on opportunities to work with Special Collections materials. Work is already underway, with the walls of the lab being built and the former board room being redesigned.

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New hands-on instruction lab for Special Collections under construction

The Libraries – and FAU’s students – are grateful for the University’s support in providing the funding to make this radical transformation of the Wimberly Library fifth floor possible. The Libraries have collected dozens of thank-you cards written by students to President Kelly thanking him for his support, illustrated by one card shown below.

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Thank you note written by a student on May 31, with name and contact information edited out.

Other work is planned or underway elsewhere in the Wimberly Library, including upgrading the group-study rooms and building a new single-point-of-service desk (combining three different service desks into one) directly in front of the front doors on the first floor. The FAU Libraries are committed to transforming space and services to meet the needs of today’s students and faculty. Check back here for updates as we continue to implement our new vision.

Images in this posting were taken by Carol Hixson, Patricia Koppisch, Vicky Thur, and Carol West.

 

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Denim Day 2017

This spring, on April 4, 2017, the FAU Libraries partnered with the University’s Victim Services department to host Denim Day. Denim Day, commemorated internationally on April 26, is “an event in which people are encouraged to wear jeans (denim) in order to raise awareness of rape and sexual assault,” according to Wikipedia.   The movement stems from an Italian Supreme Court ruling in 1998 overturning a rape conviction because the victim wore very tight jeans and they ruled that the victim had to have assisted in the removal of the jeans and, thus, could not have been raped. Denim Day has grown as an international movement to raise awareness against sexual assault.

At FAU, the Libraries collaborated with Victim Services to host an event in early April (before students got engrossed in end-of-semester papers and finals) in which people were given an opportunity to paint denim jeans with messages of solidarity for victims of sexual assault.

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The event was very well attended by people from all backgrounds and ages taking part

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in the painting or in discussions or in learning about resources and services provided by FAU.

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Following the day of painting, the decorated jeans were hung in the Wimberly Library to

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continue to raise awareness about the seriousness of the issue and to demonstrate the Libraries’ support in making FAU a safe haven for students and community members from all backgrounds and with all manner of life experiences.

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Photographs courtesy of Patricia Koppisch, Information and Engagement Department, FAU Libraries.

One World, Many Stories

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On Tuesday, November 15, the FAU Libraries are hosting an event we are calling “The Human Library: One World, Many Stories.”

 

We have been planning this event for months to show our commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion, of making sure that everyone knows that the FAU Libraries are a safe haven for people from all backgrounds, walks of life, points of view. We are joining the worldwide Human Library movement which bills itself as a “worldwide movement for social change” and which “is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers. A place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.” At our event on Tuesday, we will be featuring 13 Human Books – FAU students, faculty, and local community members – who will be available for conversation with anyone who is interested in learning more about them, their lives, their point of view. The event starts at 10:30 and continues until 12:30, with four twenty-minute rounds of conversation where people can move to another area and “check out” a different book.

The FAU Libraries’ Human Library event seems especially important now in light of what has been reported on across the United States. This past week (November 7-13), there have been numerous reports from across the country of people being verbally and sometimes physically harassed or attacked because they were female, Muslim, Hispanic, African-American, gay, or different in some way. The Internet and the news media are reporting on many incidents, such as CNN’s Reports of racist graffiti, hate crimes post-election. As awful as this is, the reality is that there have been incidents like this across the country for a long time. A year ago, the New York Times ran a piece entitled Racism on Campus: Stories From New York Times Readers.

FAU’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is seen in its Strategic Plan for the Race to Excellence, 2015-2025  where it has identified Diversity as one of its nine Platforms and where it is stated that FAU strives to “Become the national model for the diversity of the student body.” FAU’s “Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs promotes the academic and personal growth of traditionally underserved students. The office collaborates with the campus community to create an institutional and community climate of social justice. We promote access and equity in higher education and offer programs that educate the campus about diversity.”

Others in the country are also taking strong stands in support of diversity and inclusion. The University of California System this past week issued a statement  that read, in part: “The University of California is proud of being a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty, and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.  Diversity is central to our mission.  We remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance.  As the Principles make clear, the University “strives to foster an environment in which all are included” and “all are given an equal opportunity to learn and explore.”  The University of California will continue to pursue and protect these principles now and in the future, and urges our students, faculty, staff, and all others associated with the University to do so as well.”

The FAU Libraries are making it clear that we stand on the side of diversity and inclusion. Our newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee is charged to make recommendations to the me as Dean of University Libraries on:

  • defining the scope of diversity needs within the context of the University’s and the Libraries’ strategic plans and mission statements
  • reviewing FAU Libraries services, collections, and technology to ensure full support for people of all backgrounds and perspectives
  • the development of signature events, services, collections, and exhibits to promote diversity and inclusion
  • improving the library’s work environment to ensure a safe, welcoming, supportive environment for all Libraries faculty and staff
  • arranging staff development opportunities to increase awareness and appreciation of different backgrounds and perspectives reviewing recruitment and hiring practices within the Library to promote diversity and inclusion
  • reviewing policies and procedures to remove obstacles and promote greater diversity and inclusion
  • developing the Libraries as role models for diversity for the FAU community

The Human Library event on November 15 is just one manifestation of our commitment to being a safe haven for all of FAU’s students, faculty, and staff. Come to us for help. Come to us to discover and celebrate who you are. Come to us explore the world in safety.

 

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Public domain image of safety pin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Who We Are

Although tragedies such as the one in Orlando shock us, we can show our support by continuing to be devoted to the ideals of inclusion and providing a safe haven for all people and ideas.

 

We in the FAU Libraries support and celebrate the diversity of our students and faculty, the University, our local community, and the world around us. Libraries actively strive to present multiple points of view. This is a principle that is well defined within the North American library community, as outlined by the American Library Association in the Library Bill of Rights. To this end, we will continue to host a wide variety of lectures and debates representing diverse points of view; we will develop and host exhibitions on wide-ranging topics such as Black history, LGBT pride, Native American identity, Jewish culture, the Holocaust, Women’s History and more; we will continue to develop collections of materials that reflect a full range of viewpoints on important topics in support of the University’s courses and programs; we will continue to strive to serve all of our students in the ways that they need; we will continue to promote these ideals through events like the Human Library we are planning for the fall.

 

As author Scott Page notes in The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, “When a collection of people work together, and one person makes an improvement, the others can often improve on this new solution even further: improvements build on improvements. Diverse perspectives and diverse heuristics apply sequentially: one gets applied after the other, and in combination. One plus one often exceeds two” (2007, p. 340).

 

Together, by staying true to the ideals of American libraries, we can defeat those who would destroy or demoralize us; we can defeat those who encourage us to be afraid and to exclude, differentiate, eliminate. Come to the Libraries and explore the beauty and challenge of our diverse world where not everyone looks alike, thinks alike, or talks alike and where the main thing we have in common is tolerance and respect for everyone’s right to become the best they can be.

 

The Soaring Cost of Textbooks

According to a report of the US Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) published in 2014, textbook costs have gone up 82% during the last decade. The study found that the average student spends more than $1100 a year on textbooks. Because of the high cost, some students forego buying required textbooks for classes, thus putting their academic success in jeopardy. Of those 65% who reported that they did not purchase a required text because of cost, 94% of them indicated it hurt them academically. While the price of individual textbooks varies greatly, depending on subject matter and many other factors, the National Association of College Stores (NACS) reported that the average cost of a textbook in 2011-2012 was $68 dollars – that cost rose to an average of $79 for 2013-2014. Since textbook costs are increasing three to four times faster than the rate of inflation, that average price will have increased substantially in today’s market. For some classes, the cost of an average textbook will be far above the general average. On the NACS FAQ on textbooks, they reported that students estimated spending an average of $313 on required course materials during the fall 2014 term.

So, what can we do? Many universities are promoting the creation of Open Textbooks, meaning textbooks that are created by faculty and made freely available over the Internet. The University of Minnesota has established the Open Textbook Library which serves as a repository and clearinghouse for over 200 high quality textbooks in many disciplines. The textbooks can be edited and tailored to fit a specific course or instructor and faculty are encouraged not only to create their own textbooks but also to review other Open Textbooks that are already available. The University of Minnesota reported that their Open Textbook Network has so far saved students across the country $1.5 million and they noted that “the $1.5 million in student savings was reported by nine early OTN members, including California Polytechnic State University–San Luis Obispo, Cleveland State University, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Ohio State University, Purdue University, University of Arizona, University of Minnesota, University of Northwestern St. Paul, and University of Oklahoma.”

Open Textbooks are one type of Open Educational Resource 1210px-OER_Logo.svg

which are defined in Wikipedia as “freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.”

The FAU Libraries will be working with the Colleges and faculty across the University to develop strategies to support the creation and adoption of Open Textbooks and other open educational resources in order to reduce the costs of an FAU degree. Stay tuned to this space for more information.