Friday, 9 November 2007

Innovative College Library

Yesterday I had the pleasure of looking around the recently refurbished library and learning resources centre at Blackpool & The Fylde College.

I visited shortly before work began 14 months ago and the library now is almost unrecogniseable as the same place.

Perhaps I shouldn't say the library anymore because Blackpool asked students to come up with a name for the new combined library and learning resources centre from a list of alternatives. The new resource is now named The Loop which allows the college to display signs such as 'Get in the Loop' and the term library is almost forgotten now even though The Loop has only recently opened for business in its new guise.

'I overheard two students talking', my guide and project manager for the refurbishment, Christine McAllister said, 'and one said "I'll meet you later in the Library."
"Where?" said the other, "Oh - do you mean The Loop?"'

Some of the refurbishment caught my eye - bookshelves with inbuilt concealed lighting has been used which certainly makes the books stand out and looks attractive and draws you towards them.

Blackpool could be the first Further Education college to install and use these self-service machines which allow students to book out or return books using their student card.

Any outstanding fines can be paid into the machine which issues a receipt for any payments.

The touch screen interface looked easy to use and students can also use the machines for reserving library books that are currently unavailable through being out on loan.

Social areas for networking or single study in more comfortable surroundings has been included with use of swivel panels to reveal power outlets for laptops.

As I was being shown around, students were using the facilities both for informal social meetings whilst on the next block of seating a student was sitting with her laptop, surrounded by a collection of open notebooks and text books.

Even before all of the graphics had been delivered and installed, the place had a buzz about it that was both friendly, vibrant and yet conducive to study.

For students without their own IT equipment there was a mixture of both sit-down bookable PCs and stand-up short-term machines where students could quickly download and send emails, check out blogs and network on sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

Blackpool believe in encouraging use of Web2.0 facilities, which is a refreshing change to them being seen as a threat because students might 'diss the teachers' as one IT manager explained the 'risks' to me. He wasn't from Blackpool. I suspect Blackpool & The Fylde may have the right approach!