Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Testing, testing,

The blog-silence can't entirely be put down to being super-busy - I also went on holiday for just over a week - but I have been ferociously busy, getting the new library space set up and ready to go. Yesterday was my first 12 hour day of the academic year, and the semester hasn't even begun yet! The early crunch point is my own fault, though, as I'd scheduled a library test day for today.

I might have had my doubts, as I worked late last night, that spending a whole afternoon on test-driving the new library might not be the best use of my time, but thanks to my six sixth-form-student volunteers I can say now that it was absolutely worth it. Worth it both in terms of the feedback I've gathered, and in terms of reminding me why all this matters - students. Spending time with students, even if they're not "my" students, is energising and rewarding.

The photo illustrating this post is those students very first impressions of the library space - I had them hit the post-it notes as soon as we walked into the space and sat down: "welcoming", "organised", "fresh", "open", "inviting", and my favourite "nice environment for learning". I also had them do some individual tasks, and a small group project, to test out how the library would work in use, and had them critique my library orientation talk, before and after using the library. They asked excellent questions, jumped on the roll-play tasks with enthusiasm, and came up with some really good suggestions.

It's a new space, with a different balance of advantages and problem areas, and I want to avoid "fighting the last war". Between their feedback, and what I picked up observing them, I think I know what my priorities are for the next week (signs, display, navigation), and what to watch out for during the semester. I suspect the old clash-point between silent and social study is going to continue to be an issue. The spaces are much more clearly defined, but the acoustics aren't helping, so developing a community expectation of quiet behaviour even in the non-silent spaces is still going to be an important goal. I'm hoping the other changes in the building might help, though - the proximity of study rooms for group work, and the more convenient computer classroom for social computing.

Suggestion-wise, there's a couple of things I'm definitely going to work into my orientation, and one larger idea that needs more conversation, but that I really hope comes together. My test-drivers were asking if there was any way they could come back, so obviously we've done something right!

Overall, a very productive afternoon indeed, and now I just need to send a few thank you notes to everyone involved in making it work; the test-drivers, their school, and my colleagues here.

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