New Information Commons Unveiled in Kent Library



April 17, 2008 – A grand opening ceremony and open house today celebrated the unveiling of the new Information Commons in Kent Library at Southeast Missouri State University.

The Information Commons is the result of a complete renovation of the library’s third floor.

“The Information Commons isn’t so much a place, but a concept in which you take the newest possibilities in technology, a Multi-Media Room, comfortable seating and group study rooms and combine them with the traditional library services,” said Ed Buis, director of Kent Library.

Buis says all of these amenities are now available to students in one location. The Information Commons has been developed to support student teamwork, collaboration and research on the Internet, and to provide access to multimedia and well-designed informal learning spaces. He says the Information Commons will equip students with the skills to locate, evaluate and use information in today’s increasingly technological society. It also will allow today’s students to conveniently bridge print and digital information platforms and to make use of a group learning and research environment that will help better prepare students for the professional world, he said.

“Kent Library is now the busiest place on campus,” said Dr. Jane Stephens, Southeast provost. “Traditional library services and cutting edge technology are located in a comfortable setting where librarians and technology experts are available to help students sort through the information overload that is bombarding all of us. Information literacy is among the greatest challenges in higher education today.  The Information Commons is our response to that challenge.

“I am especially excited about the library because rather than being for a particular group of students within certain majors, it serves all faculty and students,” Stephens added. “I think it is the most needed change on our campus in the past decade.”

A spacious computer lab and a reference help desk, complete with three reference consultation terminals, now occupy the core of the third floor. The lab features a mix of personal and Macintosh systems — featuring flat screen monitors and the latest in high tech cube compact hard drives. From there, students can write papers, conduct research, search databases, surf the Internet and send e-mail.

Small group meeting rooms are available along the east wall, which will allow students collaborating on group projects a place to meet to discuss their work.

In the southeast corner is a new Multi-Media Center. The Multi-Media Center consists of a reception area with three individual group production rooms adjacent to this space. Buis says each group meeting room will be equipped with a computer with Internet access, a camera, a scanner, editing equipment, Smartboards, a table and chairs. The equipment will allow students to produce their own multi-media group presentations using video, produced by the students, and other technology. 

“So many class assignments now deal with team work,” Buis said. “If a small group of students is working on the creation of an advertisement, for example, they can actually produce it hands-on” in the multi-media room. “They can write and produce it and be the actors within in,” all from this new facility, he said.

The multi-media center, which is expected to open at the start of the fall semester, has been named for Heather MacDonald Greene of Vancouver, Wash., and Palm Springs, Calif. Mrs. Greene and her husband, Doug, are University supporters and entrepreneurial advisors to the University. The Greenes recently made a gift to the Southeast Missouri University Foundation to support the Multi-Media Center and to establish two scholarships.

Bill Holland, director of corporate relations and associate director of development-Harrison College of Business, says the new facility will enhance students’ presentation skills “by providing them with state-of-the-art multi-media tools.”

The library’s reference collection is now housed on the west side of the third floor. Also on that side and still under construction are a large and two small conference rooms and offices that will house the Information Services Department.

Buis says Kent Library’s Archives and Special Collections, the Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning, and the Instructional Materials Lab will remain on the third floor in their previous locations.

Transforming the third floor into the Information Commons required transferring materials formerly housed on the floor to other locations in Kent Library; removing shelving; demolishing small, outdated study rooms; installing new flooring and carpet; and relocating the library open lab on the second floor to the central space on the third floor.

The Commons is the second phase of renovations in Kent Library. The second phase also has included furnishing and reconfiguring the reference help desk.

The first phase of the project was completed in spring 2006 and included an extensive renovation of the main floor of the library with the addition of the Kent Coffee Cart and Sadie’s Place on the east side. Sadie’s Place is named in honor of the first campus librarian, Miss Sadie Kent. Sadie’s Place features two new group study rooms, browsing shelves for new book titles and New York Times best sellers, and a browsing collection of nearly 100 current magazines, journals and newspapers. Computer stations at individual tables are spread throughout the area for student research, and the Library’s wireless environment allows laptops, personal or library loaned, to be used throughout.

With the extensive updates to Kent Library over the past two years, “the building is a lot more active,” Buis says. “There is more going on. Circulation and database hits are way up.”