The second talk this morning is by Les Watson who was responsible for the Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University. This has been influential as a concrete example of the way a library can become a ‘learning space’.
Les sees education as the only way ‘we’ (presumably the UK) can compete in the global ‘conceptual’ economy, and sees libraries as a fundamental part of education. A recent SCONUL survey showed a drop in library visits from students, libraries are in a period of immense change in the ‘information environment’ (Les reference ‘The Black Swan‘ – a book about unexpected change.
Les is going to argue that buildings can influence our education system. He says that the best starting point is to be unhappy – this gives you motivation to make radical changes. "All Buildings are Predictions" – when we build something that is going to last tens of years, we are trying to make a prediction about requirements.
The Saltire Centre cost £23million (start saving for your very own Saltire Centre now) – this comes with pressure to deliver!
Les is making the point that now a large proportion of the population is going to HE education (now in Scotland at 46%). We have a increasingly large and diverse population of students to serve. We need to consider what hte students want and need as they come into the University – if we don’t we are failing our ‘customers’ – of course Glasgow Caledonian is a post-92 Uni, with a teaching focus. I guess I would want to also emphasise the role of researchers as ‘customers’ of the library service in a research led University such as Imperial.
Les is making the point that we need to engage with pursuits we may generally dismiss, but are central to the life of a ‘digital native’ – texting, gaming (100% of US College students play video games) – Les suggests that we need to create a ‘play ethic’ as opposed to a ‘work ethic’.
Les is describing how too much of our ‘learning’ is passive and extrinsic, where it should be active and instrinsic – our eductation institutions are stuck in the 19th Century, whereas the student are from the 21st century.
I suppose I see myself as on the cusp of the ‘digital native’ generation – I grew up at a time when computers were becoming common in the home (ZX81, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, BBC B etc.), but I don’t use texting a huge amount, I only game a little (mainly SingStar!)
"Technology is stuff that doesn’t really work yet" – Bran Ferren.
Technology is always moving, we need to exploit it, and it needs to be as invisible and seamless as possible. If we are going to serve ‘digital natives’ well, we need to be engaged with the technology they are using.
Les sees Design as fundamental – and something we perhaps don’t put enough into (he doesn’t use it, but the classic example now must be the iPod – design is fundamental – read Stephen Fry’s inaugral blog post and his comments on the Sony Ericsson 990i to see how poor design can frustrate – its a long post, so just search for 990i to find the relevant bit).
Les believes that open plan space is a way of coping with the changing environment, and making predictions. He also says we need to stop doing "No Cell Phones, No Eating and Drinking". Interestingly on the latter point I think it is often not (or not just) the librarians who have this attitude, but academics, and even sometimes students – we get complaints about these things…
Les believes that the Library should become ‘the’ place on campus. We’ve been thinking too much about library operations, where we should be thinking about how we support teaching and learning (IMO Les needs to incorporate Research into this picture somewhere).
Les feels that the best thing about the Saltire Centre was some US visitors mistook it for the Student’s Union – Les felt that he had acheived what he wanted. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some more traditional ‘silent’ space for study – but it is a mixture of environments built around student need – one student said "it’s like home".
Les says our aspiration should be to take space, and turn it into ‘place’ – a 3rd place (an idea from Richard Florida in his book ‘The Rise of the Creative Class‘ that is a place that isn’t work and isn’t home). Les mentioned the ‘Creative Class’ a few times in the talk – there is some more information here http://creativeclass.com/ but sounds like the book would be worth a look.
I asked about the question of ‘research’ – Les argues that he doesn’t think of ‘research’ and ‘learning’ as separate – we do personal research as we do personal learning. Les suggests we need to unite these things, rather than divide them. Perhaps the issue is not research vs learning, but the fact in general the researchers tend to represent ‘Digital Immigrants’ rather than ‘Digital Natives’ – a point made by Ruth Jenkins from Nottingham is that they had resistance from some, but they said "lets try it" and they still have traditional library space as well.