Final Project Proposal

Skip to:   Background | Issues & Proposed Changes | Presentation

In 2005, Urbana Free Library underwent extensive renovations. Space was added allowing for expanded computer labs, study areas, and more. In the intervening years, it has become clear to librarians that more modifications are needed to accommodate users. Specifically, the space needs to be rearranged to better facilitate collaborative and social learning. Librarians would also like an easier and faster way to update the library computer lab so that users are always up to date. By taking into account various user scenarios and by researching practices in other libraries, we have developed some suggestions that will help the Urbana Free Library do just these things.

Background Research

Over the course of the semester, we all visited a variety of other libraries to look at their space designs and technology set-ups. It was difficult to compare some libraries because populations and size varies from place to place. Below are descriptions of the visits that informed our decisions the most.

Champaign Public Library

Champaign Public Library (CPL) has several interesting features that proved relevant to our project. They have an entirely separate Young Adult space with a full computer lab that can be only be used by this age group. All YA materials were housed in this section as well. The space is only staffed after 2:30pm on week days and most of the day on weekends. Having this separate space largely avoids any potential issues between youths and older patrons in the computer lab.

There are two computer labs at CPL. One is in the open next to the reference desk and contains eight rows of computers. We liked that these rows did not all face the same direction and that each computer had enough space around it that two people could (and often do) work at the same station. The other lab is in a room just behind this and is a designated a silent space. This silent space ensures that patrons have a place to go when there are users in the main lab who are making noise and again circumvents nearly all clashes between youths and older users.

Like the computers at UFL, these computers are configured such that users cannot install or update any programs. CPL feel that this provides the strongest security to patrons. Unlike at UFL, CPL patrons must have a library card or computer use card to access computers.

Douglass Branch Library

The Douglass Branch Library, the smaller branch of the Champaign Public, completed their renovations to their new computer lab in September 2011. There was an expansion done to the space where the previous lab was located and as a result, library lost conference room space. The Douglass Branch, like UFL, needed more space and better access to computers for their various groups of patrons. Previously there were 10 computers in the space and now the lab consists 20 computers, 2 printers, a table and chairs for work space, and comfortable seating in one window space. Adult patrons utilize the lab during the days for various tasks and in the evenings when specific computer classes are offered such as how to use the internet, how to use and email, and working with Microsoft Word and creating resumes. The Douglass branch is similar to UFL in that with their adults patrons, there are also a lot of job seekers and people need help creating resumes etc. Similar to UFL, the Douglass branch also has a high number of YA patrons using the lab in the after school hours and in the evenings when there are no classes. Because there are only 20 computers available, machines are not designated for different types of users but they have the times of the day when the lab is “exclusive” to a certain group of users. The Douglass Branch is one main floor so it is in close proximity to the circulation desk that also serves as the reference desk. Users have quick access to a staff person if needed.

Milwaukee Public Library

Milwaukee Public Library was interesting in that it felt more like a research library than a public library. It had a small fiction space on the first floor and several large, separate libraries on the top floor including the Frank P. Ziedler Humanities Room; the Art, Music, and Recreation Room; the Krug Rare Books room; and the Business, Science, and Technology Room. There are computers for searching the catalog scattered throughout the library but it looks like the public use computers are primarily in the Business, Science, and Technology Room. In this space, there is a long desk of computers that curves around the reference desk. These computers are all situated such that librarians can easily glance over and see the computer screens. There are several other small rows of computers situated a little further away.

In addition, there is a small computer lab located off the Business, Science, and Technology Room. This lab was designated a job center however there were quite a few people playing games and browsing the internet. Thus, it was unclear if this rule is enforced or if it is only a job center at certain times. The room had white boards and a/v equipment and as such would be excellent for conducting job hunting workshops. This is something that would be great at UFL but there really is no extra space for a separate room like this. Also, the room was within sight of the reference desk but not close. Should a person need help, they would have to make a significant effort to reach out to librarians. This is definitely something to avoid at UFL.

Issues and Proposed Changes

Overview

Skip to: YA Space | Job Center | Main Computer Lab | Updating the Lab

Our proposal for creating a YA space and altering the lab area consists of two stages of implementation.

Stage 1 uses only existing furniture and hardware that UFL currently holds.

Stage 2 is our vision for what the spaces could look like down the line when funding is available for more computers, new furniture and some cosmetic changes to the spaces.

Our priority would be to reorganize the YA space first since that seems to be a concern for the library staff as well. The next step would be to design the space for the job seekers to gather information, and last, to look at software options that are available to install on the computers in a more efficient way.

Young Adult Space

Currently, there is a small Young Adult section on the first floor of the library. It contains approximately two shelves of materials and some seating. There are no computers. When teens need to access computers for entertainment, schoolwork, or other uses, they must use the adult computer lab on the second floor of the library. Librarians have noticed that teens seem to use computers more socially than adults – they enjoy talking and moving around as they share media and complete work. This has proven disruptive for some older patrons in the adult computer lab who prefer to work in a quiet space. Thus, librarians have identified the need to have a separate computing space for teens.

We decided to designate a separate space for the Young Adult population to provide them with a space that is their own and that is conducive to their needs and enhance their social/emotional development. They can be more social and use the lab without disturbing other patrons. The suggested Young Adult Space (YA) is an area on the North side of the building that we are looking to designate as the “secluded” space for the Young Adult population. This area has about 6-8 locations where computers can be set up with ethernet connections for internet access. There is also space where a library staff person can be stationed for supervision purposes and to provide assistance to teen patrons. A staff person would need to cover this area during the “peak” times when YA patrons would frequent the lab the most. (after school, no school days, etc.) Supervision would not need to be as heavy during “non peak” times, the space will be more of an open space for all patrons. In terms of the Young Adult print collection we are suggesting that, since the collection is pretty small, to just move that collection upstairs to the new designated area, which is about 3 or 4 shelves.

  

In terms of materials needed, this would just be a matter of moving six computers or so the YA area. We would also need the ethernet cords to run the Internet connections from the jacks in the the walls. We would need additional tables to allow for work space as well.

Intended Outcomes

As a result of establishing this YA space, the goal is to help promote Urbana Free Library’s mission to be available to provide a community space where people can come and work together as needed. The goal is for YA patrons to be able to have the option to work alone or socially when necessary. We want to promote and encourage collaboration among patrons and promote community building. Within the state of Illinois public schools, school library media centers included, social and emotional learning standards and inquiry based learning, teaching students how to interact with one another socially and learning how to collaborate with others are a big part of the curriculum for teaching the 21st century learner. (ISBE and AASL) By creating and providing this exclusive space that encourages these ideals, we are also impacting YA patrons learning and lives.

Possible Impacts

As a result of the proposed plan for the YA space patrons will have opportunities to work together to engage in community building and collaboration efforts. This can be done by working together on group projects for school assignments or designing images in Photoshop for a blog site for example. The overall goal is to provide a space where patrons can build on social and collaboration skills and have more opportunities to creatively work together and enhance skills.

Output in Stage 1

      

Rearranging the existing space that has been designated for the YA section on the north side of the second floor. This is where we will add computers taken from the main lab and use existing furniture etc. All YA materials will be moved from the current space downstairs to the new designated space on the 2nd floor.

Output in Stage 2

     

In stage two, more computers will be added to the space. More work towards creating a space for a social learning environment will take place, a place where YA patrons can work together easily and efficiently. Acquiring furniture that is conducive to this type of collaboration, is fun and appealing to this population and also allows for independent work will also be a priority.  We recommend the cosmetic change of painting the walls, this will give the YA space a “feel” of its own, separate from the other areas of the library.

Sustainability

The YA space should be fairly easy to maintain since this was just a change in space for the most part. Maintenance of the lab will be handled like every other lab in the building, this system has already been established. Documentation regarding the changes with the YA space may be helpful in the future if this population continues to grow and there is discussion about redesigning the space and making changes again in the future. IT people within the library can be provided with more information and training regarding implementation of software and how to do updates to computers that would not only benefit the YA space, but other labs within the library as well. As it relates to YA patrons and space specifically, future training for library staff that includes youth development and their user information needs may also be be beneficial. It could help justify why this separate space is necessary for this group of patrons and so important for them not only to meet their user, technology needs, but to also help them in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them.

Job Center

Job Hunters come into the Urbana Free Library to use the computers to search for jobs, or to get help filling out basic information on their application.   The problem that the job hunter face is having to compete with other users in the main computer lab for computers. On the second floor of the  library in the computer lab are two computers that is designated for people searching for jobs, or for them to use to updated their application, or job resume.  Librarians at the  Urbana Free Library  help the job hunters fill out basic information on their application, and help them navigate through the computer to search for jobs.  The job center also have an bulletin board that they post information on for job hunters. We’re suggesting that  the Urbana Free Library update the job center so the job hunters can have their own designated  work space.  This space will be for job hunters so they can search for employment . In the job center we’re suggesting that a few more computer are designated for the job hunters, and that this space is used only for people searching for jobs.  We are also suggesting that a bigger job bulletin board is set-up with more resources, and information for job hunters.

We will be talking to the Unemployment Office to get them to partner with  the Urbana Free Library  so they could post information about jobs and classes that the Unemployment Office offers. The Unemployment Office will lso offer training classes to the job hunters so they can learn how to apply for jobs, update their job applications, and learn how to interview. The information about these classes from the Unemployment Office will be  posted on the job bulletin board, and they will give the Urbana Free Library  monthly updated information on companies looking to hire, and information on classes that the job hunters can take to update their job hunting  skills.

Intended Impacts

Job hunters won’t have to compete with other computers users in the computer lab, because the computers in the Job Center will be designated for people seeking employment, or looking for help with their job applications, or other employment information.  This designated space  will also give the job hunters a place that they can get help, and communicate with each others.  It would  also give them better access to work on their job applications, update resumes, and search for job.  Having the Urbana Free Library partner with the Unemployment Center will give the job hunter a lot more resources, and information about jobs, and classes they can take to help them gain employment.

The bulletin board will have websites for companies that are looking for workers, it will also have information about classes that the job hunters can take to help them develop job skills. It will also have other pamphlets and brochures that will help the job hunters develop the skills they need to gain successful employment.

Possible impacts

This space will be important for the job hunters.  It will give them a space to come work on their job building skills.  It will allow them to get the help they need to be successful in getting employment.  The main purpose is to give the job hunters a place that they can come and use the computers to look for jobs, and to get help with their job hunting needs.  The resources from the Unemployment Office will give the Urbana Free Library job hunters more information and resources to help them with their employment search.

Outcome

We need to add more computers in the job center.  This will be arranged when we move some of the computers from the main computer lab to the job center, and the teen center.  This will give the job hunter more space and computer availability to search for jobs. The partnership with the Unemployment Office will help the job hunters have more resources and information so they can have more employment option.  The job bulletin board will give the job hunters more information on how to seek employment, and on class to improve their job hunting skills.

Sustainability

In the future, I am suggesting that the Urbana Free Library have the job bulletin board updated monthly by the staff that work at the library.  This will keep all information current for the job hunters.  The Urbana Free Library can continue to get information from the Unemployment Center and other places to help the job hunters on current job openings, and training classes . Maintaining the job bulletin board will be really important, and it will just be simple as replacing old information, with more current up-to-date information once a month.

Main Computer Lab

The main computer lab area at Urbana Free is functional as it is. However, there are some improvements that can be made moving into the future. The primary problems identified with the main lab are that it is not very spacious or friendly for users with disabilities, it does not allow for significant collaboration, and it is overall not the most inviting space. At this time, there are approximately 40 computers and individual workstations arranged in rows in the computer lab. There is space to walk between rows but not very much. Librarians at the reference desk have noticed that patrons with disabilities and elderly users often have trouble navigating to open computers. The fact that these desks are arranged in rows and are designed to be individual work spaces limit users’ ability to collaborate on projects and activities taking place online. The desks are also narrow so even if a patron were to drag a second chair a computer, the space would be cramped and uncomfortable. This lack of room, accompanied by bare walls and no windows all serve to make the space less exciting and welcoming than it could be.

   

Fortunately, some of these issues will be solved by the solutions proposed above. For example, if four or so of the computers and desks are shifted into a newly created Young Adult space and several more are bumped to a Job Hunters area, the main lab will instantly have more room to spread out desks and work spaces, thereby making the area more navigable for both patrons with disabilities and seniors. In addition, librarians are currently working to remove most of the print reference materials from the library due to incredibly low use. These shelves are located right at the edge of the lab and their removal will free up several more feet of space.

The other issues identified will take more effort to solve by library staff but can still be addressed fairly simply.

Intended Outcomes

The purpose of rearranging the main computer lab is to provide a more engaging and inviting space. The library’s current design provides a variety of open tables on both the upper and lower floors as well as private study rooms and a cafe where these sorts of activities are easy to accomplish. However, increasingly collaboration goes hand-in-hand with technology. Patrons can easily pair collaboration and technology in existing spaces if they have their own laptops and devices. But there are situations when patrons may need to rely on the library’s technology to support their collaborative efforts. This redesign is intended to facilitate this.

Intended Impact

Urbana Free Library’s Long-range Plan states:

As citizens increasingly disassociate themselves from community groups and bundle with computers and other solitary activities, libraries gain importance as public meeting spaces. The Urbana Free Library recognizes the importance of the Library as a community space (18).

It is our hope that the proposed changes to the main computer lab continue to promote this goal. The library clearly recognizes and values social meeting spaces where community members can come together to discuss local matters, create social groups, and collaborate for the benefit of the community. By redesigning the main library to incorporate social learning spaces that are based around computer stations, UFL can successfully support collaboration and, by extension, community work.

Output in Stage 1

    

Once extra space is freed up by moving computers to the Young Adult section and the Job Hunters area, we feel that the remaining computers should be rearranged. The computers along the south wall that are currently dedicated to seniors will remain in the same place. The rest of the desks in the lab will be divided into groups of four computers placed back to back to form a square. This encourages collaboration while using existing furniture. The groupings will be spaced out across the area in such a way as to ensure plenty of room around each, and will give the lab a much more “open” feel in general.

Output in Stage 2

    

In the future, we recommend that new furniture that is more conducive to collaborative work be purchased. These “pods” will allow for plenty of desk space around each computer for patrons to work at together. The collaborative tables on the other side of the reference desk will largely remain the same as those already provide a great collaborative, quieter space. We also suggest the lab be painted in warm colors and decorated with community artwork to enrich the space which is currently the a very drab part of the library.

Sustainability

At a basic level, the main lab should be fairly simple to maintain. The computers will be updated according to the library’s existing Technology Plan, just as they already are. As best practices and user needs evolve, it will be necessary to continue to adjust the main lab accordingly. This may mean creating spaces that incorporate new technology or even designing media creation areas (such as spaces for sound recording or video production).

Updating the Computer Lab

(View works referenced for this section)

The current technology in place at Urbana Free Library was more or less suited to the needs of staff and patrons, but there was one key problem: system updates. The computers utilized software called SteadyState to protect both the computers and patron privacy. A virtual desktop image is stored on each machine and after a patron logs out of the system, SteadyState restores the machine to the original image, erasing all changes made by the patron. This systems serves its purpose well, but when the time comes to update the operating system or software, the desktop image on each machine is required to be changed individually. This takes time and often patrons are left frustrated when they do not have access to the most current version of a particular application. There are two possible solutions to this problem:

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

What is it?

A virtual desktop infrastructure is a computer networking solution that stores “images” of desktops (including the operating system, software, drivers, etc) on a centralised server, rather than it being stored on the local machine the user interacts with. Each time the users logs on to the system, the image is accessed via a network connection and delivered to the user’s machine. The processing power comes from the server itself and the computer the user interacts with is merely a “thin client” (a barebones computer).

What are the pros/cons for library administrators?

  • Thin client machines are inexpensive (because they require so few components) and are therefore easy to replace if damaged or stolen.
  • Thin clients use much less electricity than full computers, so their use saves money over time.
  • VDI systems require incredibly powerful servers to operate at maximum efficiency so they pose a substantial initial investment.
  • VDI systems need to be maintained by skilled IT personnel and depending on the library, may require additional staff to be hired to be implement and maintain the system.

What are the pros/cons for IT staff?

  • It is easy to perform global updates as only the host server needs to be altered.
  • Servers can be kept away from patrons, so system security is easy to maintain.
  • If there is a problem with the network, all of the computers are out of commission until the problem is solved.

What are the pros/cons for patrons?

  • Patrons will have access to the most current software updates.
  • Patrons will not be able to tell they are using a virtual system.
  • Allows the user greater control over the computer than the current system.

Session Virtualization from a Central Server

What is it?

While similar to VDI, session virtualization differs in several key ways. Both systems involve the lab machines accessing a central server for OS and software information, but with session virtualization the computers are responsible for the processing power, not the server. This system is similar to what the Urbana Free Library already has in place but using a centralized server would allow them to implement updates in a more efficient way.

What are the pros/cons for library administrators?

  • Does not require hiring of additional staff to maintain the system.
  • Pre-existing computers can easily be integrated, so it does not require the purchasing of new equipment.

What are the pros/cons for IT staff?

  • It is easy to perform global updates as only the host server needs to be altered.
  • Servers can be kept away from patrons, so system security is easy to maintain.
  • If there is a problem with the network, all of the computers are out of commission until the problem is solved.

What are the pros/cons for patrons?

  • Patrons will have access to the most current software updates.
  • Patrons will not be able to tell they are using a virtual system.
  • Like the current system, will not allow patrons to make changes to the machine.

Proposed Output

Although a VDI system would be the most efficient in the long run, it might not be feasible for UFL to implement at this point in time based on the resources that they have access to. Both systems would solve their main concern of rolling out system updates in an efficient way, so it is for this reason that we suggest session virtualization from a central server as the simplest solution.

Proposal Presentation

Our presentation is available to view here.

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