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information commons September 10, 2007

Posted by john wright in Uncategorized.
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Last Friday I was lucky enough to visit the Information Commons at the University of Sheffield. It was one of a series of Open Days organised by the University to promote the new facility. The morning was taken up with a tour of the building, and in the afternoon we had a series of presentations which provided a refreshingly honest appraisal of the occasionally bumpy road from the conception and design of the building to the opening day.

I already knew that the exterior design of the building would be impressive, having looked at photos beforehand, but what impressed me more was the functionality and flexibility of the space, and the pleasantness of the environment – optimizing natural light, and using bold colour schemes. The promotional literature describes the building as the ‘Ultimate Flexible Study Environment’, and it’s hard to disagree. Some spaces are given over to silent study, others to PCs, there are plenty of dedicated group study rooms, and there are also literally flexible work spaces with interactive whiteboards where users can do what they like (within reason). The technology is also impressive – so called ‘business centres’ on each floor provide a swipe-card system for the combined printing/photocopying account and also a phone from which to request IT or library support from one of the dedicated roving helpers. Oh yes – there are some books as well!

All in all I went away feeling slightly envious but also full of good ideas. If our rumoured new build combined University/Public library does ever actually reach fruition, I just hope the library staff will get an input right from the early stages. I also hope we can invest in commercial architects and interior designers and actually build something of which the University and city can be proud.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism, to steal ideas from many is research. Anon.