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Sep 2, 2013

Built for Learning

Rose Library connects people and ideas in a student-centric, one-stop shopping experience

By Jan Gillis ('07)

Rose Library

Originally known as the East Campus Library, JMU's Rose Library was designed and built with a new model of library service in mind. Construction on the library was completed in 2008. In 2012 the JMU Board of Visitors approved a resolution changing its name to the Rose Library in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Linwood Rose. The following article from the Spring 2009 Madison magazine has been edited to reflect the library's name change.

Center for Faculty Innovation

CFI's location in the Rose Library is a visible commitment to a valuable resource

What is one of the university’s most valuable resources? The faculty.

Faculty members assume a challenging, multidimensional role, and the CFI was instituted to support them in their teaching, scholarship, service and leadership.

In 1998, former JMU Provost Douglas Brown appointed a task force to explore ways to support the professional development needs of the university’s faculty. Since that time, research has given birth to initial programs, which in turn have flourished and expanded with the establishment in 2006 of the Center for Faculty Innovation.

The Center for Faculty Innovation offers individual and departmental consultations, orientation for new professors, symposiums, workshops, a mid-semester course feedback program, a comprehensive collection of resources, and access to a multitude of innovative strategies for faculty and academic leaders.

Significant in this faculty development effort, is that it grew from, and was implemented by, the very people it was designed to support. For the most part, the facilitators, presenters and organizers of the center’s programs are people on campus, an important distinction that reflects a specific program goal — mutual benefit.

“Libraries of the past were designed for individuals to come, conduct research and gather information sources, which would be taken elsewhere to create a finished product,” says Ralph Alberico, dean of libraries and educational technologies. “This library is built on the philosophy known as the ‘learning commons.’”

No longer is the library simply a repository for ideas.

In the Rose Library spaces were created to allow users to experience the life cycle of information use, from the inception of an idea, to creating a search-and-retrieval plan, to actually obtaining the information. Its facilities provide students with technological tools as well as special amenities such as whiteboards and group study rooms to create their finished product.

The library reflects a commonspace business model, providing many services in one place one-stop shopping. “The old model was much more to fragment services,” says Alberico. “If you needed help with your research you went to one place, if you needed help with using media or technology you went to another place, if you needed to check out a book you went to still another place, and so forth.”

The physical features of the library are a striking combination that embraces natural wonder and advanced technology. Visitors are greeted with beautiful panoramic views, bathed in gracious natural light, and enjoy an open, inviting learning space.

“It’s our desire that this building creates an environment where learning and discovery take place,” says Alberico. To accomplish that goal the design created spaces that were flexible in their use and enabled group interactions since much of student learning is done in a group setting.

Serpentine work station configurations and furniture choices offer an unspoken but pronounced invitation to sit down, get comfortable and interact — with ideas and other students. Not only can students do research in the library, they can check out a laptop or use specialized software to create multimedia content.

Students can take their work from idea to finished product in a very comfortable and inviting space. Individuals can interact and do their research in a variety of habitats, settings and group configurations.

The library’s approach to learning met with immediate success. Student library assistant and computer science major, Kurt Dowswell (’10) says, “The first thing I heard from my peers was just how great the building was. They would come in for the first time and be shocked by how nice it was.”

One feature of the library that has been extremely successful has been the wealth of group study room availability. Each of the 45 group study rooms has a whiteboard, and patrons can check out dry erase markers and erasers. Nine study rooms with large flat-panel monitors are available by reservation. Patrons can check out a laptop cord, plug their computers into these monitors and display their desktop. Students are able to collaborate on documents that are projected up on a screen, allowing all members of a group to interact and provide feedback.

Students work, study and research in different ways, and the Rose Library accommodates them all. “There are night owl spaces and daytime spaces, group spaces, individual spaces, quiet spaces, noisy spaces, spaces where there is very little technology and spaces that are quite technology rich,” says Alberico.

Cory Rutledge (’11), computer information systems major and student library assistant, says the design reflects the ways students learn today. “This library accommodates everyone’s study needs. It has both structured and unstructured seating and study areas. Students can sit at a study carrel, or they can lounge on a couch or big chair.”

The learning commons approach also guided the creation of the library’s tiered service model. “Our approach to service is characterized by peer-to-peer interactions.” says Alberico, “We hire a tremendous amount of students in the library.” The students are put through a rigorous training program. “We train them to not only help their peers, other students, but we train them to recognize when they are approaching the limits of their knowledge and to make referrals appropriately up the chain to increasingly more knowledgeable people,” he says. Trained staff members at the desk are able to provide further assistance. Librarians are the third tier of service for patrons who have in depth reference question that requires the expertise of a subject expert.

The model works well. Rutledge says, “There is one desk you go to for assistance, and we are well trained to answer the usual questions about locating resources and technology.”

There’s a side benefit to the “peer to peer” education. “I think students are maybe a little more willing to approach another student than they might be to seek assistance from an adult,” says Alberico.

The Rose Library reflects a recognizable and cherished Madison attribute — collaboration. People work together across disciplines, contributing different perspectives on things, using different kinds of information, bringing different technology to bear, to solve real problems and advance the state of knowledge in meaningful ways.

“At JMU, people tend to work together, students are encouraged to work together in groups and soft skills are a real important part of the curriculum,” says Alberico. “One of the core ideas behind the creation of this library is people collaborating and working together on common goals. I think you can walk around and see that happening.”

“We hope this building will inspire people to connect to ideas — that people will discover ideas in the books on the shelves and by using online collections, but also by interacting with other people — students to faculty and students to one another,” says Alberico.