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Vol. XIII, no. 1

TCU Library Newsletter, Web Edition

April 2001

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Message from the University Librarian
by Bob Seal


 As the world changes around us, so do universities and their libraries.  The Mary Couts Burnett Library is no exception and over the past seven years I have reported in Windows about the many changes that we have made to improve user services.   We have used computers to speed up the acquisition and cataloging of new materials as well as to provide almost instant access to a wide variety of electronic information resources.  With the help of the Friends we have improved our physical environment with comfortable furniture, a sound system for playing classical music, and most recently our café, Bistro Burnett, which has been a huge success.

 Looking to the future, we are hopeful someday of constructing a third addition to our building to provide more shelf space, more room for computers, additional seating, collaborative learning spaces, and modernized work areas.  However, an expansion and remodeling are likely a few years away.  In the meantime, we are proposing an innovative concept for TCU, a new service model called the Information Commons.  The idea is to pool the resources of the Library, Information Services (the computer center), Instructional Services, and other campus units to improve service in the related areas of research and information technology.

The Information Commons brings together in one location, experts and material resources (library collections, computers, and furnishings) to meet a wide variety of interconnected needs.  Today’s students often not only need help finding articles and books to write a paper, they also need help with the Internet.  They have questions about e-mail, about accessing library databases from their dorm room, or about importing graphics into a paper.  They may need help with a PowerPoint presentation or creating a database for a class project.  Faculty and staff also require assistance with both library and technology issues.  Some of these services are already provided, but hours of access vary by department, and users often get the run-around as they are sent from one building to the next for help.

We are proposing the creation of an Information Commons in the Library to begin to address these needs, to provide a single place to go to for help.  Our vision includes space for students to work collaboratively on projects, in rooms with computers and network connections, with staff nearby to assist.  We also envision a “super help desk” which would combine the functions and personnel of the Library reference desk and the Information Services help desk.  A Web site with information about Library and the other campus information units is yet another option, one which would provide access from outside the Library building.  The possibilities are only limited by our imagination and financial resources.

A university committee is at work conceptualizing TCU’s Information Commons.  A few other universities have undertaken similar efforts and we hope to learn from their experiences.  We also need to find the right model for us.  It is an exciting concept, one which I hope will bear fruit in the coming months and years.

Bob Seal, University Librarian

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