Academic Impressions at Penn Libraries

walking tour group
Academic Impressions group at EC (Click to view all photos)

This past week Anu Vedantham and I had the opportunity to share thoughts on library service with a broad collection of higher education professionals – from librarians and architects to administrators and consultants – at an Academic Impressions conference here in Philadelphia. With guidance from Patrick Cain, our conference director, we brought the group to tour spaces at Penn Libraries: the Education Commons, the Weigle Information Commons, the Collaborative Classroom and the Kislak Center.

Anu and I led a pre-conference workshop, discussing thoughts on how to effectively provide a suite of services in a library, with examples from the WIC and EC. We discussed the Hoesley and Seltzer programs, equipment lending programs in both Commons, and the EC’s new 3D printing service. We led a discussion about philosophical principles that led to our successful programs: student-centered programming, participatory design, “broken, not dusty” facility management, effective risk-taking and improvisation.

The Mary Idema Pew Library at Grand Valley State University.

Over the next two days of the conference, it was exciting to hear these principles echoed by librarians and administrators from around the country, who said they found the same principles at the center of their work. Lee Van Orsdel described the new library at Grand Valley State University in Michigan and Mary Somerville described the ongoing Auraria Library renovation at the University of Colorado Denver. Joe Fennewald shared innovations from Penn State University including their One Button Studio.

We brought everyone to the EC and the WIC to explore our facilities as we discussed some of our own successes and challenges over the past 3 or 9 years, respectively. Everyone was very impressed, and also had good feedback for how we might be able to improve what we do. Catrice Barrett demonstrated the capabilities of the new Collaborative Classroom, and David Toccafondi shared details about the Vitale Digital Media Lab.

Collaborative Classroom
Catrice Barrett facilitates tour of Collaborative Classroom

The conference ended with a wonderful panel discussion celebrating the WIC Program Partners. The panel included Kim Eke from Penn Libraries,  Valerie Ross from the Critical Writing Program,  Sue Weber from CWIC, John MacDermott from SAS Computing, and Lahari Uppuluri, one of our very own interns! The participants commented later on how friendly, informal and relaxed Penn seemed to them.

The discussions at the conference not only made us feel excellent as everyone was so excited about our own spaces, but also led us to exciting ideas on how we might improve. Our visitors noticed aspects of our spaces that I wouldn’t have thought of after living in this space for a few years and becoming used to its quirks. I am looking forward to how I can improve the EC – both with quick projects, and more ambitious ideas that might take just a bit more doing.

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