9 February 2006

Information Common at University of Newcastle

The first paper I attended at VALA was Greg Anderson and Alison Rigby's presentation on the information common at the University of Newcastle. It was interesting to hear about the flow-on effects in the Library. The information commons had an entrance to the library separate to the main entrance, and they found that visits to the library increased significantly mostly, via the information common. The area has a coffee shop, cabled laptop area (in addition to wireless), computer pods designed for collaborative and/or individual work, express terminals, newspaper reading lounge with coffee table books, a small quick-reference collection and is staffed throughout opening hours with a minimum of first tier service support (student rovers). Additional service support is provided via a "converged service environment" of library and IT staff.
Points noted from the presentation:
  • Not quite 24x7 (weekends it closes at 10pm) - users want 24x7
  • Users reported that the information common provided an environment more conducive to study than home - less distractions and noise.
  • Underestimated the requirement for cable access - students like to use their own laptop and often prefer cable to wireless
  • Since the opening, average increase of 82% in usage of e-resources, although this appears to be through integration of resources within their learning management system
  • The decreasing loan statistics levelled off around the time the common was opened although, that now appears to be decreasing again
  • Staff need more training in university systems to help users with questions about timetabling, online learning environments and enrollments.

They have plans to establish another info common at a different site.