Not a place where students are shhh’d or study solo, Cunningham Memorial Library has evolved to an active learning space by developing resources for Sycamores. Feel free to move the furniture, too.
Most of the books, media and even furniture Indiana State’s Cunningham Memorial Library make daily rounds throughout the building, as students and faculty turn the library into a second classroom. A second study room. A second hangout.
“It’s interesting to watch the ebb and flow in the building. It can be difficult to plan for and requires creativity and thinking outside the box to make the space we need,” said Robin Crumrin, dean of library services for Cunningham Memorial Library. “I’ve seen instructors meet students at the library and create space for their activities. They don’t reserve space, but they know the library is available and will come and use it to do whatever class activity is scheduled that day.”
Students are encouraged to make the library their own by moving furniture and relocating the portable whiteboards to more convenient areas, especially in the late afternoons and evenings when students trade their instructors for peer-to-peer learning.
“We’ve been intentional about putting students at the reference and circulation desks because students are more likely to ask questions to their peers,” said Greg Youngen, associate dean of library services. “That’s why we have effectively trained students who work at the library to be the first point of contact at these locations.”
Unlike much of the library’s collection, Special Collections holds the rarest educational tools, like the late 1800s and early 1900s lift-the-flap books purchased earlier this year that give viewers a glimpse at early anatomical study.
It is mini field trips to Special Collections that most excited students in nursing instructor Lynnette Coffey’s ethics in nursing and nursing research class.
“As a new professor at ISU, I was reaching out to everything and anything that I thought was impactful and would give my course some ‘Wow.’ I coordinated with the library to take the students over there and they got to see works from Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton and an old medical kit,” Coffey said. “It’s things in Special Collections that we can use to show students where the profession began.”
Hands-on learning opportunities aren’t exclusive to the library’s third floor. A joint effort by the library and the biology department led to the purchase of a Skeletal Model Sam — a detailed, accurate and articulated anatomical human skeleton model made from a natural casting. It is available 24 hours a day, five days a week at the library for students to check out for use anywhere within the building.
“It’s nice to have a place where I can take the students to show them where the injection sites are on a person, rather than try to show it in a book,” said Jennifer Holmes, who took students in her Research/Theoretical Basis for Nursing Practice course to the library to help them locate landmark injection points before they start their pediatric course.
“It is definitely easier to be able to take the material we learn in class and have a way to see it applied in-person, not just in a book,” said Kara Harmeson, a junior nursing student from Attica.
Indiana State reflects national library use trends, which have shifted from the use of the print collection to electronic resources, and using the library as a collaborative space conducive for group work or team study.
“In just the last few years, the library has become a very interactive and social place on campus. It’s no longer a place where people sit in study closets by themselves,” Youngen said. “Statistics show that only about 50 percent of library users come in to use the library by themselves. Twenty-five percent come to work on a project with other people and another 25 percent comes in to study with classmates and friends.”
It’s a change that has made the library an area with fewer rules and given students more freedom to make the space their own.
“We’ve long looked at the library as the place that we manage for the university, but we’re starting to look at it more and more as student space, as we downsize the collections, open up space and incorporate more active space,” Youngen said. “There are certain resources we have to keep because we have a role and responsibility to maintain the print content we have, but we have a lot of duplicate material available electronically that we know we’ll have in perpetuity.”