(Photo by Nha Ha)

Alexandria Scott

When students complain about Robert E. Kennedy Library, the staff listens and responds.

This spring and summer, the library will undergo some smaller and larger projects in efforts to not only be the best library in the California State University system, but in the nation, university librarian Anna Gold said.

“We are looking at how we use the whole building to achieve goals for students and faculty,” Gold said. “We really feel we can redefine what a college library is and how it works in an academic community.”

Kennedy’s new definition of a college library is to provide a place where Cal Poly students can implement “Learn by Doing” with adequate technological support, director of library information technology Dale Kohler said.

“Yes, we still have books, and love books, and the books aren’t going away,” he said. “We are just adding digital resources. We’re really focused on students and student needs. Our motto is ‘You asked, and we listened.’ We are being responsive to what students are asking for.”

Funding from the California State Lottery Act and one-time money from salary savings of library employees have generated funds for the projects, which are all based on student and faculty requests. The most demanded addition is electrical outlets, Kohler said. During the past three years, Kennedy has lined its windows with another 1,675 electrical outlets, costing approximately $8,000.

“We’ve been rimming windows with an outlet every foot,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to do because fewer and fewer spaces are available to cheaply add outlets.”

Other electronic accommodations are a mobile charging station that allows users to secure cell phones in lockers while juicing up, rather than sitting out in the open, Kohler said. Also, the second-floor computer lab (216B) will transform into an active learning classroom/lab over the summer.

“It will be a really cool multimedia room devoted to flipped instruction model,” he said. “Faculty members doing cutting-edge teaching will like that space.”

Non-digital renovations are to remove the clear, glass half-wall at the entrance and add more space for students to enter the library. Students have also complained about not having enough space in the library, especially during finals week, and this is an ongoing problem the library seeks to solve, Kohler said. The Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology on the third floor will be expanded as well.

What some students might not know is that the library already offers a mobile website that allows users to find open computers on any floor in the library, reserve “fish bowl” rooms on the second floor through a few easy clicks and view PolyConnect Lab equipment availability, such as iPads, projectors, Kindles and video cameras, Kohler said.

Agribusiness senior Kayla Hayden studies in the library multiple times a week and hates walking from computer lab to computer lab looking for an open computer, she said. She was not aware of the mobile site and will start to use it on her iPhone, she said.

“I didn’t know they were that high tech,” she said. “Hell yeah, I’ll check it, definitely.”

What is unique to the library is its Student Library Advisory Council (SLAC), a student group of representatives from each college and large groups on campus, such as Associated Students, Inc., Interfraternity Council and University Housing, SLAC chair and political science senior Tucker Brofft said.

“We try to bring in a lot of different ideas for the group that will help library,” he said. “The library also brings us things they are working on and asks SLAC to put perspective in and ask students if these are issues students want the library to work on.”

SLAC obtains library suggestions through casual discussions with students and an online survey emailed out to 10 percent of the student body, or 3,000 students. The turnout is always huge, Brofft said, with 1,000 students replying.

“All the responses mean that these are the issues that students want taken care of,” he said. “The library really cares about what we think and has put in high level people who know things about the library and can give us the results we need.”

Students with concerns involving the library are also welcome to attend the weekly SLAC meetings, or can email a SLAC representative at any time, Brofft said.

SLAC is actually a group co-created by university librarian Anna Gold and associate university librarian Sarah Cohen as a way to get more student involvement in decision making, Brofft said.

The student group is a part of “Learn by Doing” and working together to solve problems, Gold said. The library wants to be a place that students and faculty have a stake in, she said.

“Fundamentally, libraries are about empowering people,” she said. “We want students to walk in and feel they can do cool things. We want to be as good as a library as Cal Poly is as a university.”

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