Yesterday, I went to the first meeting of the library planning committee. The meeting was informative and inspiring: the new library, or more accurately the Mary Idema Pew Library and Information Commons, is going to be amazing. If you have not seen the video introducing the library, it’s worth taking a look:

The SHW Group is the architectural firm behind this design; at the meeting yesterday we met three of their representatives who gave us an in-depth presentation on the new library. As both the video and the presentation makes clear, this exciting new space will emphasize both technology and collaboration. I think that the way in which students collaborate is also worth thinking about, particularly in terms of the software or web interface for our databases and collections.

It seems clear that students collaborate more than ever before, and that the space of the library will allow for all kinds of collaborative combinations. It would be great, too, if they could access information in a way that allows them to share it quickly and conveniently. No doubt, students use a range of technologies to do this already: they email each other documents, text each other about meetings, discuss ideas via Facebook, and more. Why not develop a system that allows all of this to happen from a single location?

So, here’s my idea again–the shared information network. It’s like Facebook or Myspace, but the library isn’t just creating a Facebook page. It would be developing a system that gives students all of the affordances of Facebook and more. Students and faculty would be able to:

  • create shared folders for collaborative documents and collaborative bibliographies
  • contribute bibliographies to the library index, tagging it for future users
  • add up-to-the-minute sources to bibliographies
  • format and save bibliographies with a single click
  • communicate with group members via email or video chat
  • submit documents to the Writing Center for review, to a GVSU faculty member, or even to Turnitin.com

So, imagine a faculty member assembling a thorough bibliography on a topic, and then making the bibliography (full text) available to the students in her course. Or contributing her bibliography to the library index, so a student searching for quality sources will have the professor’s bibliography to peruse. Or imagine a collaborative group of four students working on a PowerPoint presentation–three from the library and one from home. The student at home has a video interface and can access/edit the presentation that is being created, along with contributing resources to the collective, running bibliography.

My idea for how all of this would look is here:

Could this kind of thing be developed? Would it be helpful? I don’t know the answers to these questions. But it is exciting to think about.