Libraries continue to be a topic of discussion among members of the Society for College and University Planners [SCUP]. As ACRL’s liaison to SCUP, I attended the 50th annual SCUP International Conference [July 11-15, 2015, Chicago, IL] and most recently the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference [March 30-April1, Newark, Delaware]. I also was delighted to be part of a team that received SCUP’s 2014-15 M. Perry Chapman Prize, supported by The Hideo Sasaki Foundation, and presented results of its funded research at both conferences. Here, I offer a few insights about interest in libraries shared by architects, designers, planners, academic administrators, vendors and faculty also participating in SCUP activities.
The Annual conference last year celebrated SCUP’s half century during which its membership grew from 311 to over 5,300. It was comforting to learn from among its commemorative activities that the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan was designated as the permanent home for SCUP’s archives and that this recognized the value to future researchers of evidence of SCUP’s contributions in the evolution of higher education planning.
Libraries were included in several conference activities. They are increasingly seen as dynamic venues in planning change on campuses, primarily in redesign of their physical presence, but also they are becoming associated with challenges of planning for management of “big data.” For example, among merit awards for excellence in architecture, Williams College was commended for its Sawyer Library [designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson]. Conference sponsors featured libraries in their advertisements [e.g. renovation of Brown University’s John Hay Library [Shawmut Design and Construction] and University of Southern New Hampshire’s Library Learning Commons [Perry Dean Architects], and vendors promoted products for planners involved in re-inventing campus libraries. Libraries were featured on conference tours [e.g. DePaul University’s Richardson Library and the Chicago Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago]. At least four conference sessions focused on libraries, typically presented by architects, planners and/or librarians. Georgia Tech was focus of two discussions about the re-design of academic libraries and the value of aesthetics in stimulating creativity; the New York Public Library illustrated importance of grounding community for life-long learning nourished by open digital resources.
With my co-recipients of the Chapman Prize, W. Michael Johnson and Michael Khoo, I presented results of our research at a well-attended session entitled, “Measuring Patterns of Student Interactions to Improve Learning Environments by Design.” The interactive presentation generated interest in the “Proxmap” approach we developed that gathers quantitative data through processing video images of student behaviors in informal learning spaces that in turn we propose are useful for assessment of designed spaces as related to learning. Throughout the year-long inquiry we maintained a blog and our final report is now available through SCUP, see: http://www.scup.org/page/resources/perry-chapman-prize/2014-2015team . Michael Johnson and I gave a variation of our presentation during the Mid-Atlantic Regional conference and were encouraged by even more questions and feedback about possible applications as well as interest to extend our applied research. A proposal for presenting another look at our research has been accepted for delivery at the 51st Annual SCUP Conference to be held in July 2016 in Vancouver, BC Canada.
I am also pleased to report that librarians have been associated, among academic planners, with addressing challenges of managing data. I was invited to present an opening overview of the future of data for a one-day symposium that the SCUP Mid-Atlantic Region is hosting in May in Baltimore on “Big Data: Academy Research, Facilities, and Infrastructure Implications and Opportunities.” I look forward to participating in this program that will also feature my co-presenter T. Scott Plutchak, Director, Digital Data Curation Strategies, University of Alabama at Birmingham [formerly director of its medical libraries], Sayeed Choudhury, Associate Dean, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University, and Philip Bourne, First Associate Director for Data Science, National Institutes of Health, among others. For more information or to pre-register see http://www.scup.org/page/regions/ma/2016/one-day/20160513
I recommend SCUP events and publications to academic librarians. It is always stimulating and informative to engage with professionals from other disciplines and backgrounds. Those who focus on academic planning and campus design issues are kindred spirits and welcome learning more about libraries and our strategies for addressing challenges of common interest—improving the student experience, advancing research, practicing integrated planning, designing and building infrastructures in higher education to name a few. I continue to be impressed by the diverse expertise among participants in SCUP and the high quality of its numerous venues around North America. I appreciate the privilege of representing ACRL and advancing librarianship within SCUP, and urge others to share the pleasure of doing so by participating in its international or regional conferences or contributing to its communications.
Danuta A. Nitecki
Dean of Libraries and Professor, College of Computing and Informatics,
April 8, 2016