One-Stop Information Service
By Randy Ericson and Dave Smallen
Over the summer the Burke Library and Information Technology Services established the Information Commons (IC) on the first floor of library. The new initiative brings together high-capacity computing tools, the print and electronic resources of the library, and the professional assistance of both reference librarians and information technology staff to provide a single point of service for the campus.
The IC, located with the Multimedia Presentation Center (MPC), provides the opportunity for students to conduct research, use library materials in the development of ideas and produce a final product, whether that be a printed paper incorporating graphic elements, a poster or Powerpoint presentation, or a video. The proximity of the IC and the MPC will allow students to easily move back and forth as they refine their ideas and undertake further research. The IC and MPC will provide a full spectrum of resources from locating information, evaluating and analyzing it, and ultimately presenting the knowledge developed from that information in a concise and compelling manner.
The design and procedures for the IC are the culmination of two years of work by joint committees of the Burke Library and ITS. Surveys of faculty members and students helped to shape the services offered, and continuing evaluation of the IC will guide its future.
The IC will reinforce the themes of:
• Understanding how information is organized
• Providing access to information in all its forms
• Effectively using technology tools to access and analyze information
• Critically evaluating the validity of that information
• Providing integrated support services for access to information
• Collaborating with others to create knowledge
• Effectively communicating knowledge to a variety of audiences
We expect the IC to be an exciting place characterized by high levels of use by faculty members and students, work areas that encourage collaboration, and modern computer technology for accessing, manipulating, analyzing and presenting information.
In connection with the IC, the furniture in the seminar rooms on the second floor was replaced with modular tables and chair, and an online system was developed to allow the rooms to be reserved for group study after 5 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends. During the pilot phase of the project the IC will be fully staffed from 2-4 p.m., Monday-Friday.
One of the driving forces behind the IC is change — the world our graduates will enter is a diverse, complex and global society in which electronic communication and access to information via computer networks will be commonplace. Knowledge is a critical resource, in ways similar to other natural resources. Leaders in this world will know how to collaborate with others, to access, evaluate, synthesize and analyze information, make decisions based upon that analysis and communicate those decisions in ways that will move others to action. Knowledge is not the same as information, and information exists in a variety of formats. Knowledge is the result of the process of access, evaluation, synthesis and analysis of information. It informs decision-making and communication.
For more information about Hamilton's Information Commons, visit the homepage at <http://onthehill.hamilton.edu/academics/ic> or read an article by Ericson titled "Libraries are Education — Living and thriving with library/ITS collaboration: The Hamilton College model" that appeared in the October 2004 College & Research Libraries News