Exciting Times for Library and Information Studies at Carleton University

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a tour of Carleton University’s MacOdrum Library and to learn about Carleton’s new Bachelor of Information Technology – Information Resource Management program. Both the library space and the new program are innovative and student-centric.

The MacOdrum Library has undergone a major renovation in which two new floors of student space have been added. These top two floors are designed to be flexible and to promote collaborative work. The new floors contain movable furniture that can be configured for team projects and include movable whiteboards and participant walls that can be opened or closed for group privacy. The space also includes two walking desks in which students (or even a writer-in-residence) can walk on a treadmill while working. As someone who has spent a lot of time sitting at a computer over the past couple of years I can appreciate the opportunity to get a little bit of exercise done while writing, but these are more than just novelties. The walking desks are designed to help kinesthetic learners who find the physical movement helps them concentrate.

In addition to the new open collaborative spaces on these two floors there were several rooms that students could access. The floors were lined with collaborative meeting rooms that students can book for their group project work. During my tour I saw students working in these rooms and using the white boards to illustrate chemical compound chains and to brainstorm. There was also a facilitative learning classroom in which participants would be seated in small teams with each table having access to traditional and smart whiteboards. This room was designed to allow any table to lead a learning session rather than having a single front-of-the-room instruction point. The library also had a new gaming room with a large TV for video gaming.

In addition to the new floors, the main floor of the library had been equipped with a new “airport lounge” in which students could sit on comfortable, moveable furniture all of which was equipped with power outlets. Gone are the days when students had to compete for the one or two seats by the wall in which they could plug in their laptops or mobile devices.

The most impressive thing about the MacOdrum Library renovation isn’t that the library has incorporated technology into its space, but that all of the design decisions for this new library space were made with student needs and behaviours in mind. The spaces were designed to accommodate the ways in which students work and to give them the flexibility to create a space to collaborate with their peers. Technology wasn’t purchased just because it was available, but because it could be linked with a student learning need.

The new Bachelor of Information Technology – Information Resource Management program was also a great innovation. The program is being offered in partnership with Algonquin College. Graduates of the program would earn both a Bachelor of Information Technology degree and a Library Technician Diploma. The program combines the theoretical foundations of a university program with the hands-on education of a college degree. Experiential learning is key to this program and students also have the opportunity to complete co-op placements in which they can earn both industry experience and money to help finance their studies.

The IRM course list was also an impressive mix of the best of library science and computer studies. Students would take a selection of library studies courses including an introduction to libraries information society, metadata and cataloguing, collections management, reference, subject analysis and indexing, reader’s advisory services, classification, information management, library software, archives and special collections. This is a good introductory collection of library and information science technical courses that cover the key skills that students would need to work in a technical and reference services team in libraries, but also introduces some other information science work environments such as records management, information management, and archives. Students also take a selection of computer science courses such as web interface development, programming, and network technology. The third type of courses in the program cover transferable and management competencies that students would need in any type of work environment. These include an introduction to business, statistics and research methods, communication skills, legal issues, project management, and marketing. Students cap off their studies with a practicum and senior research project.

This program has a content that will prepare students for the full range of information-related careers available in today’s information economy. They will have the technical skills to work in either an information technology team or a library and information management team. They will also have the softer skills needed to navigate an organization and promote their team’s efforts. The first cohort of students began this program in September and I look forward to seeing this program grow and seeing what types of career paths graduates follow.

More information about the Information Resource Management program is available at bitdegree.ca


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