Learning Commons to Transform CSUN’s Oviatt Library

Black and white Sketch of the upcoming Learning Commons. Courtesy of the Oviatt LIbrary.

Sketch of the upcoming Learning Commons. Courtesy of the Oviatt LIbrary.

When California State University, Northridge students return in the fall, they will discover that CSUN’s Delmar T. Oviatt Library has been transformed into a library of the future.

The reference area, most of the bookcases and some of the individualized computer and study stalls on the first floor will be gone. In their place will be a new Learning Commons well appointed with comfortable chairs easily configured to host dynamic, academic discussions, as well as a coffee house.

Scattered throughout the Learning Commons will be charging and other technology stations designed to facilitate the use of smartphones and tablets in the learning process. Library personnel will be at the ready to help visitors tap into the Oviatt’s vast academic resources—from hard copies of books to digital journals and historic archives—or to help someone check out a tablet or laptop or access a troublesome app or software program.

“Libraries have always been about the intersection of information, technology and knowledgeable people who we still call ‘librarians,’” said Mark Stover, dean of the Oviatt Library. “While our values are very similar to what they were 50 years ago, the Learning Commons will take us to the next level. Technology has taken on a greater importance today, and librarians must have a different skill set to help the 21st century student.

Color Artist's Rendition of Freudian Sip coffee house

Artist’s rendition of the coffee house. Courtesy of the Oviatt Library.

“There will be cosmetic changes to the way the library looks, but there will be deeper changes as well,” Stover said. “The Learning Commons will place more of an emphasis on mobile technologies, and study spaces will be reconfigured to allow for easier interaction and collaboration among groups of students. In addition, we will be partnering with various entities on campus that have not traditionally had a presence in the library, such as Information Technology and the Learning Resource Center. We think that this will enrich our students’ overall experience and lead to their success.”

Most of the transformative work on the Oviatt Library is being done this summer.

In addition to the changes on the first floor, more open, flexible and technology-enhanced study spaces will be established throughout the library to allow students to engage in more dynamic and collaborative learning experiences. Power strips and “study bars” will be set up along walls for students to recharge their technology while studying.

The Learning Commons, in many ways, reflects a change in how libraries are seen and used. Gone are the days when libraries served as hushed book-lending facilities where one did individualized research with occasional assistance from a librarian. Today, libraries are transforming into community gathering places where neighbors meet to discuss pressing issues, authors take part in public readings and youth leaders encourage children to read by holding activities in meetings rooms inspired by books. Books and research still serve as the core of a library’s mission, but aren’t its only function.

Library officials said the transformation of the Oviatt Library is intended to meet the growth of Internet-based research and instruction, facilitate an increase in student collaborative projects and integrate the library’s resources and services into campus-wide partnerships to further student learning and respond to faculty needs. The ultimate goal is to make the learning environment in the library more engaging and remind people about the role the library plays in their academic lives.

“Knowledge transfer takes place throughout the campus, but one of the most exalted and sacred of these locations has always been the library,” Stover said. “But the library is changing, evolving and growing. Published knowledge is increasingly digital, and access to information is slowly but surely becoming an alternative model to ownership. However, there is still a huge legacy of print that is not going away anytime soon, primarily in the form of books and archives.

“Those who have predicted the end of the library are premature, and probably misguided,” he continued. “The library of the future, as exemplified by the Learning Commons, will be a place where students can not only continue to perform research and find information but also study, learn, collaborate, and even create knowledge.”

One can follow the transformation of CSUN’s library by visiting the website http://library.csun.edu/transformation.

Hear more about what Mark Stover, dean of the Delmar T. Oviatt Library, has to say about the library of the future: