Grand Valley State University, Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons
This article is the fifth in a series about creative spaces in libraries. For a definition of library creative spaces, read the first article in the series.
In the US, libraries often are the place on campus where many service and support units come together in one building. For instance, a university might place its student IT support desk, its writing center, and its communications center all within the walls of the library. Although these service units have their own missions and staffs — independent of the library’s — their work is often similar. The thing that binds them together is that they all offer some kind of one-on-one customer support, usually both at a desk or online, that is transactional in nature. Instead of keeping three or four walk-up desks staffed, some universities are banding these services together.
Imagine walking up to something like the Genius Bar at an Apple Store, but instead of purchasing flashy technology or getting service on your device, you get help with your university class. The knowledge market model of creative space is a centralized location in the library that offers peer-to-peer help from students trained by these various campus support units. Often, students are not sure which type of help they need. In the knowledge market, an employee greets the students and helps triage their problems. Students may receive help from specially trained library students on how to generate a topic and locate sources. If they are a bit further along in the process, the student workers trained by the writing center can help them with their composition or rhetoric assignment. If they have a question about their computer or how to use a piece of software, a specially trained student could give a one-on-one tutorial. Presentation space is available so they can give a practice run of a speech or in-class presentation to a peer mentor. Other campus support units, such as tutoring, may also be represented.
Afterward, special software can notify their professor that their student sought help from the knowledge market. If many students come for help, the professor can schedule library or writing instructors to come to their class for additional training. If a reference question is too difficult, or requires the help of a subject librarian, the student can schedule a meeting with a librarian.
One benefit of the knowledge market is that students feel more comfortable seeking student help. And if a question needs to be referred to another unit, they can get help from more than one peer mentor in that space instead of being transferred to another office and waiting for assistance again. This model also greatly reduces the amount of time that librarians spend working at a walk-up desk. If your institution is considering this idea, the innovators of this market model cite communication and training for mentors as the two pieces that take the most diligence and hard work.
My book, Development of Creative Spaces in Academic Libraries: A Decision Maker’s Guide (2018) from the Chandos Information Professional Series, includes case studies of universities that offer knowledge markets housed within their libraries. Two such schools are Grand Valley State University and University of Colorado-Denver, Auraria campus.
We are pleased to offer our Library Connect readers an exclusive look at the book by providing a PDF of Chapter 25, “Case Study: Grand Valley State University, Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons.”
Webb, K.R. (2018). Development of creative spaces in academic libraries: A decision maker’s guide. London, U.K.: Chandos Information Professional Series.