Information Commons revitalizes DePaul’s Richardson Library

In a world of e-readers and laptops, many students may assume there is no point in going to the library. But with DePaul’s new Information Commons at the Lincoln Park Richardson Library, the “library” experience is now a hub for technology and academic services.

The “information commons” concept is not a new idea, but DePaul’s Information Commons differentiates itself by partnering with other departments and offices on campus to be a central resource for students.

“We knew we wanted to have an information commons and in very basic ways that meant enhanced technology as well as more spaces for groups and individuals to work,” University Librarian Scott Walter said. “It was all about customization and figuring out how this idea would fit into DePaul’s culture … that’s where all these partnerships happen.”

Many of the current partnerships focus on student academic success, career guidance and tutoring. The library is currently partnering with five departments and offices including: The Writing Center, The College of Education Academic Success Center, The Science and Math Learning Center, The Career Center and The Office of Multicultural Student Success, according to Krystal Lewis, the Information Commons librarian.

One space within the Information Commons, called the Learning Commons, serves as a shared space for the programs to utilize, focusing on tutoring and advising. The room has many portable whiteboards and all the furniture is on wheels, allowing for flexible set-ups.

Toward the back of the Information Commons is the collaborative workspace area, which has 12 media:scape tables for group work. The tables have two TV monitors with device hook-up cords, allowing for students to plug in their laptops or other devices to display on the large screens.

Graduate student Christiana Ansong said she thinks the collaborative workspace tables are a great idea.

“I saw a group working at one of the tables the other day,” Ansong said. “I think they are a great idea and I really like how they are shaped in a half circle.”

For students, the Information Commons also features a research assistance desk, The Genius Squad, two teaching and learning classrooms and a reading room.

“Students are really in some way the primary recipients of the benefits, because what we know about the way libraries are used now in this digital age, is that they are used very heavily by the student population as opposed to the staff and faculty,” Walter said.

The library conducted exit surveys in preparation for the renovation, and in the past year and a half, about 98 percent of the people utilizing the library were students, Walter said.

“It’s a very student-focused renovation,” Walter said. “We were just looking at the most recent exit survey and many students were saying they want more and better collaborative space and better technology.”

In addition to the collaborative workspace, the Information Commons has 355 seats, 111 computers, 20 laptop charging lockers and three printing stations.

“The library space is critically important to students because it is a place where they can get help when they need it,” Walter said. “They can gain access to technology that may be beyond the technology that they would normally have on their laptop or at their home.”

Even though the project was very focused, Walter said that Scholar’s Lounge is one space that is aimed at bringing in more faculty and staff to the library. The Scholar’s Lounge has six high-powered media:scape tables that faculty, graduate students and advanced undergraduate students can utilize, according to the library.

Many students working in the library reacted positively to the new space.

“I really like how bright it is,” Ansong said. “There are so many places to sit and there’s enough computers but also not too many.”

Freshmen Cecilia Solis said she was also impressed with the new space.

“It looks a lot more advanced,” Solis said. “Even as a freshman, it seems like there’s a lot of different things you can use … I’ll probably come here a lot.”

There are still two more phases of the $10 million library renovation project left that mainly focus on the group study rooms on the upper floors.

The Information Commons’ grand opening is from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 24.