Rediscovering Relevance for the Science & Engineering Library - presentation at Brick & Click Academic Library Symposium 2012


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Faculty members across the Sciences & Engineering agree: the e-resources of the library are used more heavily today than their print counterparts were fifteen years ago. Learn how one library has rediscovered relevance to its academic communities by removing over half of the printed collections from the physical space.

The DeLaMare Library was the "beautiful library", with impeccable collections, located in a historic building at the crossroads of the departments it serves on the university campus, and had undergone a complete retrofit and remodel in 1997; yet 12 years later, students were only occasionally seen browsing its collections, with faculty only dropping by to put materials on course reserve. This paper is a case study of how the library, after in-depth analysis of holdings and close observation of end-user patterns, made seemingly radical changes that have resulted in an over five-fold increase in gate count in less than two years; rather than a quiet repository of books, the library has become a hotbed of learning and knowledge creation, with students and faculty driving the need to more than double the number of computer workstations and library open hours. Details shared will include numerous low to no-cost ideas that have proven effective in front-line advocacy for the Science & Engineering Library, and enabled the library to meet the increased demand without corresponding increases in library staff.

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  • Presentation by TodColegrove, Head of DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library October 26, 2012, at the Brick & Click Academic Library Symposium in Maryville MO: “Rediscovering Relevance for the Science & Engineering Library”.
  • About the University of Nevada, Reno, with a snapshot from the UNR website; a shameless plug, the text proudly proclaiming “Nevada is a Tier 1, Top 100 public university, according to U.S. News and World Report.”
  • More backgrounding includes calling out the land-grant status, and establishment in 1874, along with a student enrollment topping 18,004 and 912 faculty… Did I mention that UNR Libraries is hiring an Assistand Dean of Collections Services? _Please_ help get the word out to any that you thing might be interested; copies of the announcement have been placed on the handouts table.
  • Another snapshot of the UNR website with an image of beautiful Lake Tahoe in the background, a cyclist in front; more shameless propaganda. ;)
  • One of several libraries on campus at UNR, DeLaMare Library is the primary library on campus for the physical sciences and engineering. In 2010 the student enrollment was 15,939; with 21.1% of the students enrolled in courses of study in the sciences or engineering (as derived from the University’s CANID reporting system), a rough estimate of the size of the communities supported would be north of 3,363 students and 1,477 courses. Library support accomplished with the then existing staffing of 1 library faculty member (yours truly), 3-1/2 staff and 4 student workers (FTE).# students/# librarians = 3,363:1# courses/# librarians: 1,477We were going to have to do this the old-fashioned way: one person at a time.
  • The DeLaMare Library itself is housed in the Mackay Mines building, one of the oldest buildings on the campus of the University founded in 1874. An image of the front of the building is displayed to provide the somewhat intimidating context new visitors to the library might encounter.
  • Located at the geographic center of the traditional campus, the library is centrally located to the departments served – the library should be hopping!
  • 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 as the Head of DeLaMare in 2010; note the photo was taken mid-day/week during the Spring semester, and the library was not unusually empty at the time.
  • The other floors of the library featured study carrels, albeit infrequently used, seemingly pushed up against the walls by book stacks…
  • 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.
  • The unthinkable: could it be that the physical library was no longer relevant to the science and engineering communities on campus? Generally accepted wisdom held that faculty had long since deserted the library, opting instead for the convenience of accessing research materials electronically from the comfort of their office or elsewhere…
  • More bad news: circulation and reference transactions have been plummeting for years, witness Rick Anderson’s 2011 article in Journal of Academic Librarianship 37 (4): 289-290,“The Crisis in Research Librarianship.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see in the visualization of library circulation/user from Will Kurt’s 2012 piece“The End of Academic Library Circulation?”on the ACRL TechConnect blog ( – circulation/user has been dropping linearly since before 1995, with the trendlines pointing toward zero by the year 2020.
  • Put another way, since 1995, both reference _and_ circulations are down by 50-60%; if that’s _all_ libraries are, we’ve lost over half our business in the past 15 years. Danger: “Cliff ahead” – only a problem if we ignore the sign and don’t change direction. ;)
  • With the wealth of resources and expertise in the library, it should be seen more as a “candy store”. With a few minor adjustments, the library can re-present – drawing in and engaging researchers and learners. Our job: to enable these “kids” to get “all sugared up”; actively enabling knowledge creation.
  • “Eliminate book warehouse space and to replace it with people spaces that are inviting and offer the kinds of technologies that people want.” Radical?
  • Flash-forward 2-1/2 years…
  • On this slide and the twelve following, a quick tour of spaces on the four floors of the library – a very active place. Note that although one library workstation is pictured in-use on this image from the 3rd floor, the bulk of the students on the floor are collaborating without using the workstations. Other library technology in-use includes kidney-shaped tables arranged to encourage collaboration, and whiteboard-painted walls.
  • Down through the second floor, a similar pattern emerges: the students are engaging with one another, learning materials in depth; only one out of the seven is engaged in solo work on a library workstation.
  • On the south side of the second (mezzanine) floor, two separate groups are engaged in collaborative study while seated in the low-slung comfortable chairs arranged around a similarly low table; the physical science theses providing a scholarly backdrop. Tables donated by the Washoe County School District surplus, chairs retrieved from the UNR campus surplus materials warehoused in the old Getchell Library space.
  • On the entry level of the library, in the space formerly dedicated to Circulation and the permanent reserve items, students are actively engaged with a number working at the whiteboard wall (not pictured, left-hand side in picture); a much more productive use of the physical space.
  • Even writing on the laminate surface of the tables with the whiteboard markers – a discovery on the part of the library’s members. Rather than a flaw, a feature!
  • Even the basement floor of the library is alive with activity. Note the appearance of the 4’ X 6’ rolling whiteboard; four were ordered originally to serve as a pilot of the potential use of whiteboards in the library. Based on their popularity, the whiteboard paint was ordered and applied – at a cost on the order of 1/4th of what it would’ve cost to purchase standalone whiteboards. And besides: there’s something just plain fun and creative about an entire wall of whiteboard space…
  • Back up to the entry level, where several students are pictured in front of the (much smaller) service desk with their LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits. Note the looks on their faces; happy, and proud of the robot the team is creating. There’s a lot more going on in the library than just books!
  • Note the turnover in the area of the former Circ desk on the entry level; the student appearing in both (in this image on the far right) is a student tutor providing drop-in tutoring services. On the brick pillar is seen a sign advertising the presence of “CHEM HELP” in the area M-F; a great way to introduce new students to the library!
  • And through the second floor, where you see proof-positive that there’s still a place in the world for chalkboards. And note the creative mixing/elbow-rubbing as students on the left-hand board are engaged in what appears to be a gradient-based engineering (or other field) problem – even as the students on the right-hand board are involved with in-depth organic (?) chemistry. “Creative abrasion” FTW.
  • While on the 3rd floor of the library a mix of significant collaborative work with the hustle and bustle of students flowing into and out of the space. In the background, the NW floor of the library floor is open to the atrium - the active hum from the first and second floors adding to the vibe of the floor.
  • … while on the NE side of the 3rd floor dialectic is alive and well, as several students engage in active and animated conversation over the finer details that the group is exploring. With my desk located on the open floor on the North side of the 3rd floor, I like to say that “I have the best views on campus from my desk.” Case in point. ;-)
  • Backpack, iPhone, notebook, laptop, whiteboard marker kit, coffee; the ingredients of student success.
  • Although we had added 1,000 square feet of whiteboard paint to the walls, by mid-semester we had run out: every square inch was in active use – even this group of several students clustered around the two-foot wide strip of wall as the whiteboard rounds the corner. And look at the engagement!
  • “When is a library no longer a library?” Consider the depiction of the Great Library at Alexandria in Raphael’s “The School at Athens”…
  • Along with depictions of great philosophers – Plato, Pythagoras, …, is a representation of Hypatia, the last librarian of the great library. Note her active participation and engagement with the communities of the library.
  • One of the first problems identified in my analysis of the DeLaMare Library in 2010 was the recognition that nearly half of the space available on the entry level of the library was inaccessible to customers of the library. The grayed-out area on the floor plan of the building was consumed by the Circulation desk and housing of permanent reserve items in the area labeled 109B; the additional spaces were devoted to private office space for library faculty and staff.
  • In addition to the common student complaint of the lack of group study rooms, library faculty and staff were too well insulated from the goings-on in the library proper.
  • Powerful stuff. If we’re open, allowing ourselves to display vulnerability and have a genuine interest, magic happens.Note that in order to support the learning mission of the library, it is _critical_ that the environment be socially conducive to discussions.
  • Have/want a coffee shop in your library? We’re not there yet, but…
  • We _do_ have a “microkitchen” – left behind when staff relocated onto the public floors.Trust is a powerful thing: toward the end of the semester, a female engineering student told me (gruffly): “Hey – thanks for trusting us enough to let us put our food in there <the fridge>”; my response: “thanks for trusting us not to eat it!”
  • Empty walls  instant collaboration areas!Note the time progression – team starting at one side works through/around other groups that come and go, making use of at least three whiteboard walls…Expect pushback at the idea of painting whiteboard walls. Two points: the fact that writing on walls is verboten is the value, and 2) it’s paint – if it doesn’t work out, you can simply repaint. - cleanup is trivial; microfiber cloth, dampened with water if needed. - initially 1,000 square feet; not enough. Added another 1,500 this Summer.
  • Note the continuum: from private, to semi-private, to fully open/public collaboration areas.Would you want to go into a completely private collaboration room with someone you barely know? ;)
  • A “crime of opportunity”, the atrium display led in relatively short order to a significant donor/community outreach event.So well-received it had to be hosted in the “mother ship” library on campus…
  • Note the mixing of librarians/staff/customers in the snapshot of the mini maker event, top right-hand side. - anecdote, “DLM>KC” buttons appeared the last time I went to the ALA national conference… - anecdote, “Clever Girl”/end-of-semester national merit scholar
  • Image on left: an Arduino-based DIY breathalyzer. Recently added 12 kits; have been unable to get the initial two back into the library!
  • First out of the printer: a yellow ducky was the print demo.Second out? That turbine blade – the printer was barely out of the box when several teams of senior projects engineering students converged; we were barely able to save their project.Impact: broad, across the CoS & CoE. Makers, including BridgeWire.
  • Top right: Wordpress Developers – over a half-dozen were present; adopted Lilli Brant room as the “Developer’s Den”.Cost: zero. (except for being willing to come in and open the library on a day it wouldn’t otherwise be open.)Impact: Computer Sciences & Engineering, Journalism, bloggers across campus and the local community – strong presence from local businesses.Newsletteritem: Reno-Tahoe WordCamp 2011: "Amazing turnout, tons of knowledge, great people"DeLaMare Library was the proud co-host (with the JCSU) of this year's Reno-Tahoe WordCamp which brought 200 people to campus including eight WordPress core developers from as far away as New Zealand.  A "WordCamp" is a two-day community-sponsored conference that centers around discussions related to the WordPress blogging/website development platform. By all accounts the event was a great success. DeLaMare was a hotbed of web development activity; check out the recorded sessions and photos.The WordCamp events hosted in DeLaMare yesterday was the second major event hosted in the library this year; roughly similar numbers at any given time as we saw at the "Expressions…" event, but with much less coming/going – gate counts indicated around 121 people, spread across simultaneous tracks on the third and second floors, and in Lilli Brant. Although the event was supposed to wrap by 5pm, they were "so in the zone" I wasn't able to get out of here until nearly 8pm; it's clear we're hitting the mark with part of our core demographi
  • Over 88 slices of pie served; an estimated 150 students and faculty.Cost: $45 (Costco)Impact: Predominantly Math and sciences.
  • The four R’s. I would reverse the order of the last two: have to be real, raw, _and_ relational to stand a chance at being relevant.
  • Could it be more clear?
  • Presupposes that libraries _should_ respond.Exactly what brought me into the libraries picture; I’m not personally eager to live in a world where libraries no longer exist.
  • Rediscovering Relevance for the Science & Engineering Library - presentation at Brick & Click Academic Library Symposium 2012

    2. 2. University of Nevada, Reno, website home page. Retrieved October, 2012 from
    3. 3. University of Nevada, Reno, website “History, Stats, and Highlights”. Retrieved October, 2012 from
    4. 4. University of Nevada, Reno, website home page. Retrieved October, 2012 from
    5. 5.  1Derived from reports generated June 2, 2012, using the CANID Interactive Reporting System on the University of Nevada, Reno, Institutional Analysis website at
    6. 6. The Library building:
    7. 7. Centrally located at the North endof The Quad:
    8. 8. Entry level of DeLaMare Library inSpring, 2010:
    9. 9. The three other floors looked similar:
    10. 10. Where was everybody?
    11. 11. Could it be that the physical librarywas no longer relevant to thescience and engineering communitieson campus?
    12. 12. For years circulation 2and referencetransactions 3 in academic librarieshave beenplummeting: “ ” “ ”
    13. 13. For years circulation 2 and referencetransactions 3 in academic librarieshave beenplummeting: Image credit: jpgamham, “Beware: cliff ahead”, licensed under creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Retrieved May 31, 2012, from “ ” “ ”
    14. 14. UNACCEPTABLE.
    15. 15. Properly seen, what the library reallylooks like: Image credit: rumpleteaser, “Kid in a Candy Store”, , licensed under creative commons Attribution2.0 Generic (CC BY). Retrieved June1, 2012, from
    16. 16. Flash-forward 2-1/2 years… a tour of the library.
    17. 17. A typical day now on the 3 rd floor:
    18. 18. And across the 2nd floor:
    19. 19. And across the 2nd floor:
    20. 20. Entry floor (former Circulation area):
    21. 21. On the basement floor:
    22. 22. Back up though the entry level:
    23. 23. Through the former Circulation area:
    24. 24. And the 2nd floor:
    25. 25. Back to the third floor:
    26. 26. Where the dialectic is alive and well.
    27. 27. What we’re seeing today:•••
    28. 28. When is a library no longer a library? Retrieved from A depiction of the Great Library of Alexandria: “School of Athens An awesome painting by Raphael. It depicts a bunch of ancient philosophers (Plato, Socrates, etc), but he used Renaissance artists as models for the faces.”
    29. 29. When is a library no longer a library? Librarian! Retrieved from A depiction of the Great Library of Alexandria: “School of Athens An awesome painting by Raphael. It depicts a bunch of ancient philosophers (Plato, Socrates, etc), but he used Renaissance artists as models for the faces.”
    30. 30. First problem identified: Roughly half of the space on the entry level was not accessible to the customers of the library.
    31. 31. Additional complaints: - The library had no group study rooms. - When in their private offices, staff couldn’t tell what was going on in the library – leading to a tangible lack of connection.
    32. 32. Solution: relocate staff office spaceonto the public floors.
    33. 33. Added benefit: staff can better “be a node in their [customers’] network”6
    34. 34. Views from my desk on the 3rd floor:
    35. 35. Next problem identified: “ ”
    36. 36. Remember Bloom’s Taxonomy? Image credit, left-hand side: Patil, M. (June 26, 2009). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – Self-actualization stage seems no more relevant. Let’s Talk Business blog, retrieved June 14, 2012, from Image credit, top and right-hand side: Churches, A. (N.D.). Bloom’s taxonomy blooms digitally. Words in blue are identified as “new digital verbs” in the revised taxonomy. Tech & Learning blog, retrieved June 16, 2012, from
    37. 37. Rules of Engagement:
    38. 38. The “left behind” kitchen has provenvery popular… note security device:
    39. 39. Finding additional space required areview of collections use: # Titles Active/Shelf Feet Consumed Collection Name % Titles Active Shelf-Feet Preceding 5 Preceding 10 (location) (10y) Consumed Q1, 2010 Years Years Main (ud) 30.1% 12,942 0.136 1.96 3.0 Govt Pubs (udgd) 9.1% 1,566 0.029 0.75 1.6 Perm Resv (udef) 33.6% 54 0.463 4.22 7.1 Reference (udref) 4.7% 149 0.054 0.42 0.7 Thesis (udth) 45.2% 300 0.110 3.92 5.9 Oversize (udos) 18.6% 234 0.000 0.12 0.2 Yucca Mtn (udy) 58.1% 126 0.000 0.02 0.2 Microfilm (udfl) 2.1% 24 0.000 0.29 0.4 Microfiche (udfc) 0.1% 42 0.000 0.33 0.8 CD (udcd) 47.9% 4 8.500 158.5 263.3 Govt Pubs CD (udgc) 13.6% 2 1.000 20.5 43.0
    40. 40. The collection was surprisingly active!
    41. 41. Physical inspection revealed 54%of the shelf space of the Main collection was devoted to housing archived print journals.
    42. 42. When consulted, the supportedfaculty & students voiced unanimous preference for electronic access.
    43. 43. We could move the archived print journals to the ASRS. By so doing,we collapsed the entire LOC collection into existing compact shelving, and opened up over 18,000 square feet.
    44. 44. Creating ad-hoc collaboration areas:whiteboard paint on open walls.
    45. 45. Creating a range of collaboration areasincluding semi-private and fully-publicspace:
    46. 46. “Tricks”: • • •
    47. 47. Hosting exhibits and events centeredaround common interests of thecommunities ofPractice of the library:
    48. 48. As traditional as an author event:
    49. 49. And some not-so-traditional: an afternoon outing on The University Quad…
    50. 50. With several hundred students andfaculty participating.
    51. 51. Novel additions to librarycollections include buttonbutton makers…
    52. 52. Sparkfun ArduinoInventor Pro kits…
    53. 53. 3D printing and scanningas a library service.
    54. 54. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from ENGAGE!
    55. 55. Examples that the communities havebrought to the library include:Displays of student artwork
    56. 56. All-day WordPress “bootcamp” events… Image credit: thekevinjones, (June 5, 2011). Wordamp, Reno 2011. All rights reserved. Retrieved June 5, 2012, from
    57. 57. Pi day celebrations…
    58. 58. Rube-Goldberg machinecompetitions…
    59. 59. Even a lock-picking workshop.Show your community how far you’re willing to go.
    60. 60. Background reading:
    61. 61. The good news: • • •
    62. 62. Author contact is pcolegrove SlideShare of this presentation at credit: dr_ed_needs_a_bicycle, “Question mark, Ipswitch, 21 January, 2012”, licensed under creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Retrieved May 31, 2012, from