This post is part of a series about my visit to the University of Warwick to find out about their use of space in the library.
The Research Exchange is a physical space and a community of people which aims to bring academics together across a range of disciplines. This supports the University’s mission to increase interdisciplinary research. During this visit, we discussed the conflict between this aim and academics’ need to publish in more subject-specific journals (with higher impact factors) for the REF.
The Research Exchange incubates a number of special interest groups including Digital Change, Gender, and Social Justice and Global Development. The venue itself may be booked for events ranging in size from small groups to larger conferences, and there are also computers and informal group work areas for meetings.
Research Match is a service which helps Warwick academics to find researchers with similar research interests, and start new interdisciplinary collaborations.
The PG Hub opened in May 2012 and occupies the niche between the Learning Grid for undergraduates and the Research Exchange.
It consists of a large central room with comfortable seating which can be re-arranged, with smaller rooms around its perimeter. There are lockers, a computer area, and printers. The glass-walled staff office is right at the entrance to the Hub.
The smaller rooms may be booked for individual or group study, or for informal get-togethers.
It was an exciting time to visit, as the staff are preparing to welcome the new intake of students in September. We had an interesting discussion about communicating information to students about how they could use the space. They already have a touchscreen terminal which will have brief guides on the use of the lockers etc, and students will be able use it to make room bookings.
Our broad conclusions were that our systems and spaces should be designed to be as intuitive as possible from the beginning, and any guidance or instructions should be designed in to the space (rather than tacking up lots of posters and notices). At both at the PG Hub and at St Hugh’s College Library, roaming staff are used as a way of greeting and welcoming students at the beginning of the academic year, hoping that positive early interactions will encourage them to come back at a later date when they need help.