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A Look Inside the Heart of the Campus

By Dan Heuskin

Published December 20, 2016

If you haven’t been to the third floor of Silverman Library since its grand reopening, it’s time you paid UB’s new “Heart of the Campus” a visit. Outfitted with innovative new technology-enhanced spaces—which UBIT helped design and implement—for many students the new space has become the premier study location on UB’s North Campus.

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Daniel Heuskin (UB Student, Class of 2017) is originally from Long Island, NY. He is studying English at UB with aspirations to become a teacher or writer. In his free time, he enjoys playing bass guitar, doing nature photography, writing songs and reading.

Collaboration is key

Aside from student booths, lounge seating, and open table areas, there are also nineteen new rooms dedicated specifically to collaborative study efforts, which were themselves a collaborative effort between UB Libraries and UBIT.

"There are 17 rooms with a 55-inch display and three rooms with an 80-inch display," explains John Pfeffer, IT Customer Service Team Lead for UBIT. "So you have some variety to meet different presentation needs."

Ranging from five to eight-seat areas, these collaborative learning spaces feature  state-of-the-art media technology systems, which allow students to connect their laptops to large flat-screen monitors.

The spaces have quickly become one of the highlights of Silverman’s third floor. "They’re something new, in a style unlike anything we’d tried before," says Pfeffer.

Digital Creative Spaces

Two state-of-the-art video studios and four media editing stations comprise another major highlight of the new “Heart of the Campus.” Here, students can create, edit and view media productions.

“They’re like mini TV studios,” explains Pfeffer, who helped set up audio-visual technology in the spaces. “They have studio lighting and studio microphones, and projectors in case you want to display something you’re talking about in your video. You’ve even got a green screen, so you can put custom backgrounds in your videos.”

Called “One-Button Studios,” the high-tech spaces were designed around an open-source app from Penn State. “The app was free, but we had to design the studio spaces and obtain the technology to make them work,” Pfeffer explains.

“The end result is pretty cool: as soon as you plug in your thumb drive, the studio lights fire up, and the camera and microphone turn on. When you’re ready to record, you just press a button. When you’re done, you press the same button again. You take your thumb drive out, and you’ve got your recorded content.”

When you’re finished using one of the two studios, you can head to the nearby editing station for post-production work.

More than enough power

The floor wouldn’t be complete without workstations—essential for students who need to work on papers or assignments, print or study. But if you have a personal device with you, you may not need a public computer at all; Silverman’s third floor has more than enough power for your personal devices.

“Students have so many devices in the 21 century—laptops, phones, tablets—and one thing they were telling us they wanted was plenty of power,” says Senglaup. “So we made sure that was available, through both electrical and USB outlets. We have 1,343 power outlets and 900 seats, so the ratio of outlets to students is well over 1:1.”

UB students regularly request more access to power outlets, and in the 2016 UBIT Student Experience Survey, more than 25% of students said that access to power outlets was their favorite thing about the 3rd floor of the Silverman library.

A student-centered space

The complete renovation of what was previously UB’s science and engineering library embodies Phase I of the Heart of the Campus initiative—a UB 2020 initiative with a stated aim of “enhancing the student experience by creating a vibrant learning landscape on UB’s North Campus.”

The process began in 2013, with a wide-reaching assessment on behalf of University Libraries, focused on researching what kinds of learning spaces students wanted to see in the new study location.

“They told us, in no uncertain terms, that they needed lots of different types of spaces,” says Karen Senglaup, Associate University Librarian for Administration in the University Libraries. “So we did our best to provide that—and it looks like we did a pretty good job.”

The end result? A variety of study spaces to fit the needs of different students. For those wishing to study in a silent communal space, there’s a traditional grand reading room. For students whose work requires similar concentration, but who prefer the privacy of more personal spaces, there are plenty of study carrels—table areas enclosed by walls for individual study. To top it all off, the center of the third floor is home to a café, perfect for taking a break, refueling and socializing between study sessions.

“Libraries are communal spaces,” explains Senglaup. “You come here because you like being around other people. But at the same time, you may have work that requires concentration, serious contemplation, minimal distractions—and that’s what the grand reading room and carrels are for.”

The third floor of the Oscar A. Silverman Library in Capen Hall exemplifies this shift toward a more flexible, student-centered space in the best way possible. To get a clearer picture of what it’s like, you could check out this schematic—or better yet, you could come and visit for yourself. You may even be so inspired that you’ll want to sit down and study.

For any questions, comments, thoughts, or other feedback, feel free to contact the Libraries at library@buffalo.edu.