The college library of the future won’t be known as a repository for books. It won’t leave students to their own devices when they are conducting research or looking for materials.
The library of the future will emphasize service. The guidance will be more hands-on. It will serve as a resource for information beyond the classroom, helping students get answers to questions about financial aid, counseling and health services.
For Cal Poly Pomona, that future is now, as the University Library prepares to showcase what it has dubbed its Knowledge Center at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14. In an effort to link library service to student success and inspired by the Apple Store’s “Genius Bar” concept, the center will be staffed with knowledge consultants — students trained to not only answer questions, but to physically go with their fellow students to find the information they need.
“This kind of service model also represents a shift in pedagogy in library reference and instruction, which used to be ‘We are teaching you how to use different research tools to find information’ or teaching you how to fish, as it were,” says library Dean Ray Wang. “Now, in our new model what we are saying is, ‘let’s discover the information and knowledge together.’ We are helping you with whatever inquires you may have and doing it together from beginning to end. In other words, let’s fish together and after we make the catch, you can have the fish, too.”
The addition of the Knowledge Center is part of a growing trend in which university and college libraries are changing their service model to better assist students. Aside from assistance with library-related inquiries, staff from the various offices on campus, from financial aid to counseling, will spend time in the Knowledge Center to answer questions.
Cal Poly Pomona is the first of the CSU campuses to launch this innovative model, according to Wang, adding that he has heard of one university in the Midwest using this concept. The desks, chairs and white boards are in place. The computers will soon be added.
Paul Hottinger, the engineering librarian, is training the knowledge consultants who will staff the center. Many of them have worked at the reference desk or in circulation for several years, but the training is going beyond answering general research questions, he says.
“Many students have library anxiety because they come in and they don’t know who to talk to,” he says. “They don’t want to ask questions because they feel they are in college. They should know this.”
It makes sense to have the various services in one area so that students don’t get bounced around, he adds.
“This whole concept is very fluid,” Hottinger says. “It’s going to grow. We’ll see what services students use and also take note on what services they would like to include in the future.”
Anissa Mota, a senior mechanical engineering student who has worked as an assistant in the library for four years, says the most common questions students ask are about printing. Under the new model, instead of giving them instructions and sending them on their way, the knowledge consultants will go with them to the printer and go through the process.
The center will take some getting used to for students initially, Mota says.
“It’s new and different, and students won’t know what to ask,” she says. “But as time goes on, it will be helpful for them.”
Geena MacMullen, a senior computer information systems student who has worked in the library for a month, says she thinks the concept of the Knowledge Center will be beneficial.
“I think it’s a good idea,” she says. “It’s a way around long lines at a reference desk.”