This was my first week at work at De Montfort: it’s been enjoyable, but as I’m still finding my feet, I’ll wait before blogging it. Instead I’m going to talk about an event I attended during the week. I presented the findings of my dissertation at a couple of events in CILASS, alongside my supervisor, and CILASS director, Professor Philippa Levy: one on Wednesday 9th to a group from UC&R Wales and one on Thursday 10th as part of the SRHE Student Experience Network. I’ll talk about the SRHE event as I was able to stay the whole day and see the other sessions.
The day started with a talk from Kath O’Donovan, Associate Director of Library Services at Sheffield. She talked a little bit about the background to the IC project – a lot of which was familiar from my interviews with staff – and gave a good introduction to the IC.
Kath was followed by a presentation by Krishan Mistry about his IC-related video IC Girls. It’s worth following the link to see this playful take on the IC. I must admit, I have always found the video / song lacking on the feminist front, but it was interesting to hear about how the idea for the video had developed: Krishan’s explained that the lyrics of of the song were intended to mock one womanising friend’s tales of the IC, which made me a little more comfortable with it. There’s all sorts of interesting discussions about viral marketing and student ownership of university spaces triggered by this video, and it was interesting that Krishan had been accused of developing it in partnership with the University – he assured us that he had been avoiding staff during the filming!
Next, Phil and I presented the findings of my dissertation, and I took everyone on a tour of the building ‘through students’ eyes’: specifically focusing on how individual areas in the IC can be meaningful to individual students. I had 30 minutes, but overcompensated for touring 40 researchers / librarians around the building, and only took 15, so we had time for some interesting discussion afterwards.
After lunch, Matthew Cheeseman, the convenor of the event, talked about his Folklore PhD looking at students in Higher Education. He talked about how the nighttime economy – the economy of bars, clubs and alcohol in which mainstream students participate – fitted with the idea of a 24 hour library. I have enjoyed his work a lot, and would recommend checking out his 2008 paper – The impact of a 24 hour library on the student experience at Sheffield.
Finally, IC Manager Alex Hunt wrapped up the event with some tips on managing a facility like the IC. One of my favourite facts from her is that cleaning a 24 hour library is more like cleaning an international airport than cleaning a library – it’s never shut, and you’re always having to clean around the people!
It was a good event, and I particularly enjoyed the range of perspectives from the speakers – from Kath’s focus on the development of the building, to Krishan’s personal student experience, to my relatively study-focused findings on how students used the building, to Matthew’s understanding of the IC as a social phenomenon, through to Alex’s experiences of running it. The event really emphasised to me the different views of the Information Commons (and libraries in general) we have, and how much we can learn from stopping and thinking about these facilities from the perspectives of other stakeholders and users. A big thanks to Matthew for organising the event!
Note: Photographs are views of the IC from one of the higher floors, and of the CILASS space within the IC.