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Jun 08 2012

“The difference it will make . . . “

This week I’ve been interviewing a group students who have just finished an innovative course co-taught by College of Design and Computer Science professors. The students’ task was to work together across several academic disciplines to help design the Hunt Library “experience.” This building, after all, is in many ways an unprecedented space–a library, for instance, where books are delivered by robots and where digital, virtual, and physical environments merge and blend in unique ways. Their job for the semester was to help us think through how our students and faculty could easily orient themselves in this new environment and quickly and naturally grasp what could be done in it.

One of the things that I took away is just how much less solitary their college work was from mine, done decades ago. I don’t know the exact statistics, but my sense is that probably one half of the projects that an average NC State student takes on in his or her classes is a collaborative project, preparing them for a work life in which successful employees are the ones who can orchestrate the talents of very divergent skills to solve a problem or create a product that no solitary worker could imagine, much less complete.

Commenting on how much he had loved a class filled with industrial designers, computer scientists, video game designers, electrical engineers, and story tellers, one graphic design student brought the idea home for me: “Having all those majors coming together under one roof and then having it work so perfectly, working with an actual project and client and then delivering even more than what they expected of me.  It was probably the greatest experience I’ve had so far in college.”

One key engine for this sort of experience is the group study room, the place where student teams can gather, ramp up creativity by bouncing ideas off each other, marshal all the technologies they need, and hammer out the work together.  And group study rooms are something that the NCSU Libraries is woefully short of to date. That is why there are 100 of them in the Hunt Library (several of which, btw, are still available as naming opportunities).  In the past month or so, we’ve shown the Hunt Library’s group study rooms to several student tour groups.  Here’s a sampling of their reactions: