Warning message

ALA Connect User logins are disabled for a temporary "gray-out" period, to prevent new posts while we upgrade into the New Connect. This gray-out period will begin on March 26th, and the new site will be launched on April 25th.

Users can use Search to view public content. Logins will be reinstated and users can create new posts, upload files, etc. post launch.

Thank you for your patience in cooperation. Check out training resources and schedule at:

Or contact Julianna Kloeppel for training or Pam Akins with questions/concerns.
Go to:
Online Doc
Meeting Request
Carolyn Cunningham's picture

Notes from Info Commons Roundtable Discussion @ ALA in Las Vegas

ALA Annual 2014
Information Commons Roundtable Discussion
June 28, 2014

Convener: Carolyn Cunningham, University of Texas at Austin
Attendees: 40

Introductions at tables

Info Commons listserv

Visit http://listserv.binghamton.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A0=INFOCOMMONS-L to subscribe to the Info Commons listserv

Information vs Learning Commons

  • Information Commons offer computers and IT support
  • Learning Commons have more student services such as tutoring, career services, and advising
  • Lippincott’s chapter, “Linking the Information Commons to Learning,” can be helpful defining commons spaces


  • How can we measure success in a learning commons? Some folks use…
    • Gate count to library, or gates on learning commons space
    • Circulation statistics
    • Focus group feedback
    • Must react to that information
    • Observation studies are a way to supplement gate count

Planning for a Learning Commons

  • Technology can be too set in place, too stationary
  • Commons spaces need to be adaptable to group study configurations
  • Some libraries employ student assistants at service desks (e.g. iDesk) to answer questions
  • Partnerships are key to a commons
    • One group had success partnering with the Media Commons on campus (a non-library department)
    • Many places integrate the writing center into the commons
    • Reservable group study rooms are popular
    • White boards are extremely popular in collaborative spaces

Equipment checkout

  • Condition deteriorates quickly, need replacement funding available
  • Problems when checking out multiple items (e.g. digital camera with charger, SD card, connector cable)
  • Some libraries use regular circulation software to checkout, smaller places have had success using a separate binder to keep track of items
  • Yale is creating a homegrown system for checking out equipment, called “Reservations,” open source program will be made available later in the summer
  • Some places have bagged items ahead to save time
  • Receipts show mixed results, staff error in checking items in can cause problems
  • Good partnerships with IT can help here, check who last logged into a device using wifi
  • When items can be wanded with RFID to check in and out, it saves times, can be cost prohibitive
  • Bagging items with a color system can help; green means simple one or two items in bag, yellow means a few more, red means stop and count everything

Implementation of a commons space

  • Helpful to implementation in stages, there is some trial and error involved
  • Lesson learned about combining staff from different departments:
    • IT staff and librarians need to find a common ground, a shared understanding of level of service provided
    • In some situations, librarians did not like troubleshooting technological questions; one group ended up splitting up the desks, but ultimately bringing them back together
    • It is common for librarians to be taken off the desk entirely as new service models are tested with students or paraprofessionals
    • A librarian shared a success story of installing pink noise machines in the commons; students sitting at a table together can hear each other, but the collaborative noise does not travel to other areas

Success stories and lessons learned

  • Imperative to get student and faculty feedback, can help to have library director talk to academic departments, student associations, faculty senate, provosts to find out what they need and want
  • Physical librarian presence in commons maintains sense of personal service, perhaps office hours in commons
  • Could include faculty technology studio in commons to teach faculty how to use new technologies in the classroom
  • One library created a separate graduate student floor to give them their own space away from undergrads, this is where it is important to have targeted focus groups
  • Have monthly meetings with campus partners like tutoring and ITS, get more buy-in that it is their space too


Katie Day's picture

I wasn't at this meeting, but heard about it from someone who attended -- who mentioned the "pink things hanging down from the ceiling" that absorbed sound.  I was glad to see there is a note about "pink noise machines" above.  Googling (as you do), I found reference to "pink noise" which isn't about literally pink things, but about pink noise, as opposed to white noise.

Please help me track down exactly what the Pink Noise Machines are....

-- Katie Day

United World College of SE Asia - East Campus, Singapore