Library renovations give students ‘more collaborative space’

This semester has brought many changes to USI, one of which is the Rice Library. 

The library underwent major changes to the first floor over the summer. Renovations started mid-July and included new carpet and furniture. 

A new collaborative space was added that includes several new seating areas, the reference desk was removed and incorporated into the library’s checkout desk and a new welcome area now greets students with an s-shaped couch along with new carpet.

Rice Library Director Marna Hostetler said the first floor now encourages talking and group work. Several tables are designed for groups and the new layout ensures no matter where you sit, you will always have easy access to an outlet. 

The idea for renovations came about in early 2018. USI’s master plan called for renovations across campus and the library is included in those plans. Hostetler also talked to students about how the library could be improved.

 “We did have that response from students that they needed more collaborative space,” she said. She also visited several libraries to get ideas and see what worked for students. 

Hostetler wanted to make a collaborative zone that encourages talking, so when it came time to brainstorm ideas for the renovations, the students were the number one priority.

The library staff was involved in the changes throughout the whole process. 

One of the new types of rooms is based on the Harry Potter series. In the series, there was a room which changed into anything you need.

Hostetler drew inspiration from that and created the “Rooms of Requirement.” They have equipment so students can listen to lectures, have a Skype interview, record a presentation, and more. The Rooms of Requirement are available for anyone to reserve and specifically designed for individual students and not groups. 

The funding for these changes came from budgeted money for the master plan and salary savings. Since several faculty left the university, the university used the money they saved from not having to pay them for the library.

“We have a fantastic staff here and we love to help students,” Hostetler said. “We have amazing librarians who can help you with your research projects, papers, and assignments. You can make appointments with them one on one or you can chat with Zoom.”

Despite students now relying on technology rather than books, the library has adapted to those changes.