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Libraries without borders: redefining the model of student support

Transforming the University of Sydney Library with four new learning commons spaces and a makerspace has enhanced the student experience, facilitated student learning and provided a space for students to connect as a community. This paper will outline the development process from the original conception and re-purposing of the space, through to the implementation of the new model of student support with changing staff roles.

Abstract
A world class student experience is more important than ever for academic libraries as client expectations increase year on year. This, along with a rapidly changing learning environment results in the need to respond, rethink and reshape models of support for undergraduate and postgraduate students. More importantly it requires organisational change, with new roles and new skills. Staff need to move away from supporting traditional print based services towards services that support student engagement, new learning spaces and technology driven services.

The University of Sydney Library Service has redeveloped five library spaces to provide more flexible and inspiring learning environments that meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students.  Moving away from the traditional model of providing large, print collections the spaces have been transformed into ‘learning commons’ and a hybrid makerspace known as ThinkSpace. Large print collections have been moved to offsite storage to make way for new and increased study spaces, 24/7 access, event and ‘create and play’ spaces. High demand material and access to print resources is now provided via technological solutions that require limited staffing intervention.

Staff are no longer permanently based in these spaces. Through organisation change a new team of Peer Learning Advisors has been created with skills focused on digital, learning and teaching, and student support. The team engage in 1-1 support, group support sessions and facilitate events to bring students together as a community. This is complemented with specialist staff who deliver subject and research skills, and with virtual support through help points.

This paper will outline the development process from the original conception and re-purposing of the space, through to the implementation of the new model of student support with changing staff roles.  It will provide insights into:

  • The redevelopment of library space and staff structures
  • Integrating space, technology and staff to deliver a new model of support beyond the traditional classes and workshops
  • Lessons learnt, evaluation from the perspective of our clients