Partnership between IT and University Libraries hints at future of the cognitive campus

Published May 13, 2019

Two students in the Silverman Library.

UB’s campus is changing. The UB2020 initiative is transforming the Heart of the Campus into a learning landscape that supports student success, broadly defined. 

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Amidst that changing landscape, UBIT’s ongoing partnership with University Libraries is laying the foundation for some of the most revolutionary spaces ever experienced on campus.

Like our physical spaces, the technology landscape at UB is also in the midst of a transformation. We’ve been busy building a kind of virtual analog to the Heart of the Campus, serving vital resources like unlimited cloud storage, interactive lecture recordings and virtual meeting spaces that our students, faculty and staff can rely on anytime, anywhere.

This is a goal we share with University Libraries. Libraries are expert in creating spaces, physical and virtual, where information and resources are accessible and freely exchanged. They’re also, historically speaking, extremely technology-forward, often first to embrace new technologies for supporting research and learning.

Now, in service of our shared mission, we are exploring how to jointly develop our spaces in the image of the university’s new integrated learning landscape. You can already see signs of this transformation in Silverman Library, where the 3rd floor Library Services Desk now features the Tech Squad, a division of the UBIT Help Center devoted exclusively to students.

Integrating library and IT support resources is one practical way we can collaborate in service of students. But this partnership’s potential runs deeper.

To illustrate, consider the Lockwood building on North Campus. On one side is the Lockwood Memorial Library, and, on the other side, is the Lockwood Cybrary. A hallway, one of the busiest on campus, divides the two. If students want to stop in Lockwood, they must first make a practical consideration about how they want to work, and then choose the space that closest fits their needs.

But imagine if that boundary were dissolved, and, instead, students found themselves in an open, mixed-use, collaborative space designed for the kinds of work students do. The question would no longer be, “Do I need to work at a computer or a library carrel?,” but rather, “what kinds of questions do I need answers to?”

In this way, we can challenge students to think differently about their work. The spaces themselves can spark lateral thinking and broader inquiry.

It also hints at a future where the lines between physical and virtual spaces dissolve. As UB’s faculty are actively innovating on this front, exploring augmented reality in their classes and experiential learning by way of virtual reality, our students will expect more of an integrated virtual experience throughout campus, This partnership will enable us to deliver on that vision.

At UB, the partnership between IT and Libraries is a natural fit, given where the university is today—and where it wants to be tomorrow. I feel fortunate to have leadership in University Libraries that supports and embraces IT, and I hope they feel the same. And all of us at UB are fortunate to be present during a time of such change and possibility.

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