Information Commons: A New Partnership

Before this fall, students used basic computer labs on campus to access the Web for researching assignments, word processing, and printing. For questions or guidance, an appointment for a mentoring session with the Office of Institutional Technology would usually be necessary. Since September, however, students, faculty, and staff have enjoyed a new computing and learning space within the Annenberg Library.

The new Information Commons @ The Annenberg Library Loft represents a blend of technology and library services that students frequently require, and includes the addition of an entirely new role—the Information Technology Librarian. Amy Stimac, the IT Librarian, has joined Pine Manor to help students acquire technology skills and combine them with online and traditional library research techniques.

“This is an exciting time to be providing IT and library services here at the College,” reports Stimac. "The way people seek, discover, and process information is evolving, and the Information Commons is a response to the challenges that these changes bring. I am happy to be part of such an innovative learning facility.”

Amy Stimac received her MS in library and information science from the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science and her dual BA in history and spanish from Wellesley College. While completing her Master's degree at Simmons College, Amy focused on the information commons concept as an emerging practice in library services. She has since drawn upon her graduate work to successfully guide, promote, and launch PMC’s new Information Commons.

The idea for this new approach to delivering technology and research services was a product of the recent NEASC accreditation process. Through work on a NEASC self-study committee, representatives from the Library and IT discovered that their organizations had similar missions, especially around student mentoring and training.

“Until this year,” commented IT Director Liam Roche, “there was a traditional, unstaffed computer lab in the basement of theLibrary that students viewed as somehow separate from the Library both physically and functionally. The new Information Commons is completely integrated with the Library, just above the reference area. However, the real cornerstone of the effort is the addition of Amy Stimac as IT Librarian. Students can now have questions or problems resolved immediately, and a full-time technology mentor is available to help them with both computer-related needs and library research.”

After a summer of intense preparation, the Information Commons opened in time for the fall semester, quickly becoming one of the most popular areas of the campus. Many students drop in to check e-mail between classes, do online research, or simply pass the time before their next class.

“We have been very pleased with community reaction to this new model of service delivery,” stated Marilyn Smith Bregoli, Director of the Annenberg Library. ”Use of the Information Commons has been phenomenal. In addition to the Commons generally being packed, demand for reference services and library instruction classes has increased. It is very exciting for the Library to be involved in facilitating our students’ engagement in the active, collaborative learning that is so much a part of the College's mission.”

The collaborative effort that resulted in the creation of the Information Commons has benefits beyond enhanced services for the community, according to Bregoli and Roche. It demonstrates the positive things that can happen when different groups combine resources in an atmosphere of risk.