When Hayden Library, Arizona State University’s largest library, re-opens in 2020, its open-stack print collections will have a whole new look.
The future display, curation and delivery of books at ASU, and how those books interact with the heavily digital-dwelling community in which they are present, is the focus of the Future of Print initiative, an exploration into the behaviors, needs and expectations of 21st-century academic library users.
Led by ASU Library, the initiative addresses specific needs of today’s public universities, and has resulted in a widely shared white paper and a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Lorrie McAllister, Associate University Librarian for Collections Services and Analysis, and Shari Laster, Head of Open Stack Collections, is now leading the Future of Print into its next phase: experimentation.
Here, Laster discusses these experiments and how they aim to inspire new thinking around the design of inclusive, high quality and user-focused print collections for research and learning.
Question: This fall, the library is experimenting with a series of collection experiments. Can you tell us more about them?
Laster: ASU Library has a lot of ideas about how people and books get connected together. We came up with a list we are calling “10 Compelling Ideas” and we’re trying out some of these ideas in different library locations and in other spots on campus. This fall, we have several mini-projects, or experiments, in motion.
Surprise Me! is a collection of poetry and drama at Fletcher Library on the West campus. The books in this collection are being shelved spine-backward in order to invite students to explore an unexpected collection.
Another project, Vamos Argentina! Books, Tango and Meteors, is an exciting series of talks and events that is drawing attention to the collection of Argentine literature currently housed at Noble Library on the Tempe campus.
At the Downtown Phoenix campus, we are featuring Health Humanities Horizons, a collection curated in collaboration with faculty whose research and teaching intersects with the CLAS certificate program in interdisciplinary health humanities.
We’re also cooperating with Barrett, the Honors College to assemble a mini-library in a student-friendly environment, in addition to planning a mini-collection for Hayden Library that’s all about the act of collecting, what we collect and why we collect.
Q: With digital interfacing consuming more of our time and attention, what are some unique strengths of the print medium?
Laster: Books mean different things to different people. While digital content certainly has many advantages, accessing and using a book in print format is a specific experience that can bring about a different form of interaction with the content. We all have different ways of learning and absorbing information. We hope that allowing for the possibility of a book to “catch the eye” of a passerby will enrich the experience of our spaces.
Books also have a physical presence in library spaces. Print books are often considered an essential component to creating a thriving learning environment. For example, they can make a room more conducive to study and focus. This project takes into consideration which books we are presenting in and around spaces where students study and learn. By making parts of our collections more visible, we add another layer of learning where users can physically be immersed in the collections.
Q: University libraries have always been a source of academic support for students. How does this initiative, focusing on print materials, connect to the success of ASU students?
Laster: When Hayden Library re-opens in 2020, it will be a destination on the Tempe campus for studying, research and classroom learning. It will also be a place for the campus community to relax, take a break and explore new ideas. We want to create collections that make library spaces more welcoming and inviting. We also want to use print books to present new perspectives on academic disciplines and research, and to inspire innovation and discovery. By helping everyone who enters the library to see our collections in a new light, we also give them a new way to explore ideas that matter to their success at ASU.
Q: How can people participate in these experiments/mini-projects?
Laster: Visit the collections and leave us feedback! Visitors can expect to see emoji stickers for a quick shortcut to speaking your mind. Anyone can borrow the books on display, so pick up and check out what looks interesting to you.
We also want to hear from the ASU community about the library collections that make you feel welcome in our spaces. Anyone is welcome to send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.