Meeting spaces are the places where people can come together to hold a conversation, share ideas, and create knowledge. The librarian’s role in facilitation of these meeting spaces can take a number of forms. We can design good physical spaces, create virtual spaces, help people to use these spaces, and help people hold the meetings. There are facilitation methods for the spaces and the meetings themselves. Mostly I have discussed the spaces because the discussion of means of facilitation is a huge topic.
Initially, I did some brainstorming of all the different kinds of spaces for people to meet. There are dozens, and they can be defined in different ways. Some are formal and some are informal, virtual or physical, voicebased, text-based, video-based, and so on. The rough division falls along physical spaces versus virtual (or distance) spaces. The list is below.
In the library literature, there is a lot of discussion about physical meeting rooms and their role in library service. Many libraries have separate meeting rooms available to the members or groups. Usually, there has to be a clearly defined policy regarding who can use the meeting room, how it can be used, and the access and reservation procedures. This type of space is clearly different from the more informal spaces that are used for smaller meetings—tutoring sessions, study dates, and so on. There is also quite a bit about the transition to a “learning commons” that many academic libraries are undergoing. Transforming physical spaces into collaborative spaces include changes such as:
• Creation of multiple collaboration areas where people can converse without disturbing other library members.
• Computer terminals where multiple people can gather and be noisy.
• Supplies and technologies that can be checked out and used in meeting rooms (whiteboards, laptops, projectors, speakerphones [gasp]).
• Flexible spaces that can adapt to different groups and uses.
In the virtual world, there are an enormous number of venues where people are interacting and discussing: everything from Facebook to SecondLife to blogs to bulletin boards to chat rooms. They can be synchronous or asynchronous. Even document services such as Google Docs can be a type of meeting space or collaboration space. The numbers of collaboration spaces are increasing dramatically. Web-based productivity tools are allowing businesses and individuals to collaborate while located all over the world. Google now has a beta version of its online collaboration space: Google Wave.
In thinking about meeting spaces, we think about access to the physical space within a library, the types of physical spaces provided, access and use of virtual spaces, and facilitation of the use of those spaces.
Types of Spaces
Below is the result of a brainstorming session on types of meeting spaces that are used by people. Some have examples, some do not, but the idea is to begin to grasp the variety.
• Physical Spaces
• Private Meeting Rooms
• Instructional rooms
• Learning commons
• Public social spaces (coffee shops, etc.)
• Privately held meeting spaces (my living room, corporate conference room, etc.)
• Performance space
• Repurposed or flexible space (dorm lounge, empty classroom, etc.)
• Virtual Spaces
• Social networks/social spaces
• Bulletin Boards
• Document Services (and others)
• Chat rooms
• http://www.chatmaker.net/ (Note: This page no longer exists.)
• Virtual and web-based conferencing technology
• Digital Centers
• Columbia University Libraries Digital Social Science Center http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/dssc/index.html
• Collaboration Software
• Environments (both physical and virtual)
• Conversation environments
• Collaborative learning environments
• Cornell University Collaborative Center http://mannlib.cornell.edu/rooms-labs/collaborative-center
• Informal social spaces
• Community of practice/interest spaces
Where Do Librarians Fit In?
Ideas include teaching, moderating, embedding in spaces, roving reference, and others. Teaching others how to collaborate, communicate, and create knowledge within these spaces seems to be key. The physical meeting space services provided by libraries vary with the type of library. Academic libraries have been moving toward learning commons and more collaborative spaces designed for students. Public libraries generally provide public meeting rooms with tables and chairs but not much else. There is not much of a presence for librarians as facilitators in the virtual collaboration world outside of some academic applications. There is still a lot of room in these meeting spaces for librarians to be facilitating knowledge creation, but the question of how to do it hasn’t been answered. Do we keep to our information island in Second Life? Or do we roam through World of Warcraft as a librarian? It gets back to access not being enough. Particularly in virtual spaces, people don’t need librarians to get access, so our role has to be something different. Our role becomes one of true facilitation and teaching.
Association of Research Libraries. (2009, November 13). New thinking on space & facilities. Retrieved from http://www.arl.org/rtl/space/index.shtml
Annotation: This is a collection of recent articles, tools, and other resources gathered by ARL.
Balas, J. (2007). Physical space and digital space—librarians belong in both. Computers in Libraries, 27(5), 26–29.
Barton, E., & Weismantel, A. (2007). Creating collaborative technology-rich workspaces in an academic library. Reference Services Review, 35(3), 395–404.
Bennett, S. (2008). The information or the learning commons: Which will we have? Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(3), 183–185.
Fernandez, S. (2008). Premium space. Public Libraries, 47(6), 18.
Gabbard, R., Kaiser, A., & Kaunelis, D. (2007). Redesigning a library space for collaborative learning. Computers in Libraries, 27(5), 6–11.
Hill, N. (2008). Meeting rooms: All for one and one for all? Public Libraries, 47(6), 17.
McLeod, K. (2008). Blessing or curse? Public Libraries, 47(6), 17–18.
Pollard, D. (2005, March 18). Virtual collaboration: If you can’t work side-by-side. Retrieved from http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2005/03/18.html
Stuart, C. (2009). Learning and research spaces in ARL libraries: Snapshots of installations and experiments. Research Library Issues, 264, 7–18.