Libraries have always been amazing places, but today, look no further than a college, university, or public library to observe an institution that has figured out how to support access to information and 21st Century learning. Libraries are especially adept at encouraging patrons to collaborate.
I am sitting in the James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. Officially I am here to search through the archives on the fourth floor, learning more about Virginia’s Massive Resistance era, but now it’s lunchtime and I am taking a break, walking around, and exploring a bit.
Libraries are very different from the time when I went to college or even a 10 years ago when I took my last graduate course. Today every library that I visit is collaborative — welcoming interaction among patrons, connecting information from everywhere, and inviting people inside, even first time visitors like me.
If we are not willing to collaborate today, we are not learning especially well.
A Few Observations
Students Working Together: Large tables in just about every location host groups of students studying together on projects. Here in the Cabell Library I notice that even the areas around desktop computers are spacious — leaving room for more than one student to work.
Digital Access: It’s easy because the Cabell Library has a guest sign-on. My access is easy to use and fast. Recently I read an article about the Milner Library at my undergraduate university, Illinois State University. It, too, has expanded digital access and, in fact, has a policy that welcomes the public.
Physical Access: We walk right in and out of the library. Assistance — enthusiastically given — is everywhere, and the assumption is that we have a good reason to be visiting even before we explain why we are here.
Snacks: We can bring our snacks and tea just about anywhere, though not, for obvious reasons, into the archives’ office.
N.B. on Saturday morning: The professionals in the Cabell Library archive office? What can I say except that the people who love working with old documents also seem to love working with people. Everything they do involves collaboration, and they made my day-long visit engaging and easy. A big thank-you to Ray and Jenna in the archival section.