An inspiring future for academic libraries - a presentation at the Academic Library Directors Symposium


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Libraries are thinking beyond the box—collaborative areas are opening up in spaces formerly devoted to densely packed bookstacks, and academic libraries are experimenting with widely expanded roles and forms of knowledge creation. Rather than a future where the library has been outmoded, join Tod for an inspirational and exciting romp: from library as maker space to partner in entrepreneurial enterprise; third place and home away from home, to home of hackathons, science and maker faires. As the pace of change accelerates, with new tools, opportunities, and potentially disruptive technology appearing almost daily, is this a brave new world of library practice or a return to libraries' roots?

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  • Let me lead by sharing just how profoundly honored I am to be presenting to you all today.And in particular, to Dean Kathy RayMy background: A scientist (astrophysicist), turned entrepreneur/businessman, reformed into a teaching faculty member,and reincarnated as a librarian: @One (Learning/Information Commons) Service Manager, Head of DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library
  • It almost makes it sound like I’m _optimistic_ about the future of academic libraries. And I am! Reason #1: I see a room filled with library directors … thinking beyond the box.Change is everywhere – not just libraries. Business, home, academic… Not good or bad, it simply is. business/venture capital <-> kickstarter; bricks & mortar storefronts vsetcOn our academic campuses, faculty are no longer confined to ivory towers - engaging /STEAM outreach: nerd nites, science cafes, bioblitzes, Maker Faire events, the rise of the nerd culture in the us Image credit: <a href=''>iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
  • Dean of Libraries Kathy Ray, as seen at a Libraries’ Faire event. Yes, she is firing an air cannon, launching a tennis ball across the lawn... ;-)This is _exactly_ the type of leadership that’s needed. Engage!
  • Change is all around us. As librarians, on a daily basis we're involved in F2F encounters around the things that interest us: the arts, science, engineering…engagement is part of the larger culture of libraries - and it's changing: diversity of actors/formats. If you were to list all of the activities going on around you… consider that list today, versus what it might’ve been only a decade ago.There’s a trend toward opening up and experimenting with possibilities. The magic part: the public is responding.
  • So… let me tell you a story <making a show of blowing dust from the cover of a book>: “Once upon a time in 2010 there was an academic library…a library that could trace its roots back to the very first graduating class of the university in 1891. It was a beautiful, and quiet, library.Image credit: Crowl, N. (February 26, 2012). With Tod Colegrove at DeLaMare Library. Posted on FaceBook, and retrieved June 11, 2012, from
  • In fact, _too_ quiet.You’re looking at essentially all of the open/collaborative study space that existed across the over 22,500 square feet space of the library when I was hired into DLM in 2010.Note the photo was taken mid-day/week during the Spring semester; not unusually empty at the time. =/
  • Study carrels, seemingly pushed up against the walls by book stacks, saw relatively infrequent use.
  • Where was everybody? Given the ideal location and size of the potential community, the library should have been a hotbed of learning and research activity.Maximum number of people we saw in the library was on the order of 24.
  • Change is about making a better past: faster, cheaper, stronger, … Transformation is about designing a future and bringing it about.If we don’t have a firm grip on what is, we’re delusional from the start…Beyond change, we’re looking for tranformation: “A butterfly is a transformation, not a better caterpillar.”
  • Change is about making a better past: faster, cheaper, stronger, … Transformation is about designing a future and bringing it about.If we don’t have a firm grip on what is, we’re delusional from the start…Beyond change, we’re looking for tranformation: “A butterfly is a transformation, not a better caterpillar.”
  • Created ad-hoc collaboration areas by applying whiteboard paint to the walls of selected areasMore than tripled the number of computer workstations available throughout the library, from 36 to 130
  • Tables and furniture pulled together from campus surplus and the county school district(story: overheard a student saying “hese tables remind me of the ones we had in grade school”… ;-)Note the “old school” chalkboards coexisting with whiteboard walls…
  • _This_ is what a knowledge hub looks like. Fully-engaged, actively building and exchanging knowledge!
  • Even if that means writing on the tables with whiteboard markers. ;-)
  • Non-traditional library collections include LEGO Mindstorms available for checkout
  • Note that chalkboard co-exist happily with whiteboards in the space
  • We’ve added whiteboard wall space three separate times – first adding around a thousand square feet, followed by two more times… “You can run out of whiteboard space, but you can never have enough.”
  • What’s working for us: use that vision to inform every decision in the library. Does it move us in the direction of supporting the learning and research missions of the university? Will it make us a more vibrant knowledge hub for the campus? Inspire others with the vision. Walk the talk!The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed. Incorporate!
  • The first exhibit I arranged for the DeLMare Library: an electric vehicle, modeled after “Little Boy”, one of the earliest atomic bombs. At least 5 different types of Engineering involved in its construction, Chemistry, the darker side of Physics… and it’s a Burning Man Art Car that you can ride. Could there be a more perfect metaphor for the change that has come to libraries?
  • Immediately approached by the Associate Dean of the College of Science: could we bring it out/host an event for the incoming students and the Women in Science and Engineering? The event was a success – over the course of the all afternoon event on the historic Quad of the library (front porch of the DeLaMare Library) over a thousand students, faculty and staff engaged with the library around the “device”.
  • Shortly thereafter, approached to see if we’d be willing as a library to co-host the WordPress Basecamp (WordCamp) event in the library. Let’s see: over 60% of all web pages with an identifiable CMS are using WordPress? D’ya think our studnets and faculty – from across the School of Journalism, Computer Science, Business, …, might benefit? Yes, please!
  • Honors program approached us with a photo exhibit, combined with a reception in the library (of over 400 people) that included performances by spoken word…
  • And _then_ students and faculty started approaching us with requests for non-traditional library collection items: SparkfunArduino Inventor Pro kits, wireless drone quadricopters with API, Raspberry Pis, …
  • By migrating the printed and bound journals from the open bookstacks to the automated retrieval system in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, we were able to collapse (and expand!) the remaining print collections into the compact shelving units of the library. As we started taking own the over 7 miles of linear shelf feet of the open bookstacks in the library to make room for the community, it was critical that we avoid opening up a yawning vacuum that might attract administrative folks shopping for expanded office space…We created ad-hoc collaboration areas by painting whiteboard walls and sourcing furniture from the campus and county school district surplus. Coupled with events designed to raise awareness, the community came back to the library – filling the spaces opened up as they were opened up. Oh and the organic chemistry looking stuff? One of the entrants into the competition spelled her name out in amino acids. Who new that such awesome geekery was possible?!
  • More outreach: pics from the “Bill Nye Science Fair” we collaboratively organized on a few weeks notice with over a dozen other student clubs and organizations in the sciences. The library brought a 3D printer for live demo/printing, and various items from its lendable technology pool: Arduino inventor kits, wireless drone quadricopters, Raspberry Pis, … The engineering fraternity Theta Tau built/brought a trebuchet and the air cannon shown – used for launching tennis balls across the lawn.
  • The science fair was held in the hours leading up to the evening Discover Science lecture by Bill Nye; to a sold-out crowd of a bit over 5,000 students and faculty from our primary demographic
  • The first 24-hour hckathon: Hack4Reno – a collaborative effort with the Reno Collective, a local coworking space, to work with/on city data/Code4America
  • Hijacking another Discover Science event, the visit by astrophysicist MichioKaku; a several hour event hosted in the Lilli Brant room of the library. Incredibly intimate contact between students and the famous visiting scientist!
  • UNR Libraries launched its 3D printing and scanning services over a year and a half ago. Within minutes of receiving our first 3D printer – as we were taking it out of the box – two separate teams of senior engineering student teams descended on us, needing to be able to print for their coursework. Lower right-hand side shows examples of work from open source software build/shared (by Applied Mathematics professor at UNR PavelSolin) with k-12 schools around the state for STEM outreach: models shown printing include the leaning tower of Pisa and a greek temple (rear), along with a gear and cube in front.
  • Inset shows a model of the “green fluorescent protein” (gfp): Jackson developed a procedure to crosswalk a protein database (.pdb) file using open source software into a printable model. Also shown is a 3D-printed model of vertebrae.
  • So… the olympics. Know the sport luge? >80 mph riding down a slippery icy channel? Now imagine doing that face-first: essentially the sport “skeleton”. Photos of Tristan Gale, US gold medalist in womens’ skeleton in the 2002 winter olympics.Image credit:
  • To date, the _only_ gold medal the US has earned in that sport…
  • I met Tristan toward the end of a semester that she had been using the library’s 3D scanning and printing services to follow her passion for art and the geosciences: note the originals and copies of fossils in the lower left image
  • We’re seeing an explosion of cross-disciplinary creativity and innovation. The VP of Entrepreneurship: he’s seen more businesses come out of DLM in the past year than he has anyplace else. VPRI: we want to recognize the library by naming it as the innovation center/physical instantiation on campus; money to follow suit. Over a dozen faculty from across 8 programs and 5 colleges approached us to co-author grants this year…Image credit: <a href=''>kgtoh / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
  • A bit of whiteboard wisdom found on the wall of the DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library: “Someday, we will all look back on today, and think how awesome it is.”
  • An inspiring future for academic libraries - a presentation at the Academic Library Directors Symposium

    1. 1. Image credit:
    2. 2. • • •
    3. 3. • Develop the vision for the library. • Commit to it. Own it. Sell it. • Find the way forward. - With a clear vision the direction is always known. • Lead the charge. – Remain up-front and central during the action. • Lather. Rinse. Repeat.3 3See Transformational Leadership at for more detail