Thinking Strategically: The University's New Strategic Plan and the Library by John Tombarge, The Hal F. and Barbra Buckner Higginbotham University Librarian
Washington and Lee University's new strategic plan has one key goal for Leyburn Library: the establishment of the Center for Academic Resources and Pedagogical Excellence (CARPE). CARPE will be what many campuses refer to as a center for teaching and learning - a single place to provide support for students ranging from help transitioning to college to pursuing advanced research opportunities. It will also provide professional development opportunities so that faculty can continue to hone their craft over the course of their careers. However, every campus defines its center for teaching and learning differently, and what CARPE will become is currently being investigated by a planning committee co-chaired by Provost Marc Conner and Dean of Students Sidney Evans. This committee will investigate what other colleges have done and solicit input from the campus community. While this planning is just beginning, the one certainty is that the center will be located in Leyburn Library. We are excited to welcome CARPE, as we know the center will enhance the great work already underway here in the library.
Leyburn Library is the ideal location for such a center. It is a central instructional space, both physically, as it is located at the center of the campus, and institutionally, as it supports all academic departments in both the College and the Williams School. The library and library faculty connect a wide range of campus units, including Academic Technologies, academic support centers like the Writing Center, and research support and instruction. The library is also a major center for intellectual engagement, as it hosts author talks, lectures, invited speakers and exhibits. Most importantly, perhaps, the library is the primary study and work space for students. Centralizing academic support services within the library will signal to students that such services are convenient, prominent, welcoming and connected to the primary tasks of studying, researching and writing.
Our hope is that the center will provide a centralized home for advanced undergraduate research and the many research partnerships between faculty and undergraduates that take place across campus. While advanced research will always require the discipline-specific expertise provided by supervising faculty, the center can provide the structure and the technical and informational support required by emerging researchers, offering workshops and tutorials in advanced research methods, project management, research and writing tools, publication opportunities and other skills that can be more efficiently addressed in the central space. We envision a multi-purpose workspace that could host workshops, writing boot camps, and co-working support as students navigate capstone projects, honors theses and independent research. This makes the center an obvious partner in the library's traditional role in supporting student research, but especially in its ongoing expansion of support for digital research methods, quantitative analysis and the technology underlying scholarly communication. The center can help the library achieve its number one strategic goal: expanding its participation in the curriculum.
Making room for CARPE will require some changes, but we think those changes will create spaces that do an even better job of meeting student needs. All four lower levels of Leyburn contain print collections surrounded by fairly traditional learning spaces that were designed to meet the needs of students in the 1970s. The lower levels provide a mixture of student seating, carrels, group study rooms, classrooms, offices and two computer labs. These facilities do not meet the needs of students in 2018, who will benefit from more flexible study spaces and comfortable areas for collaboration. The renovations necessary to construct CARPE will make great strides in modernizing library facilities and take advantage of the evolving nature of the library's collection.
The growing collection of digital resources, primarily journals and government documents, suggests that a reduction in the physical footprint of the print collection could benefit student research and study. Both faculty and students prefer to access these materials online, so the print copies are not essential to preserving access to this information. Redesigning this space will transform the lower levels of Leyburn into an inviting environment for collaborative learning and creativity, another key goal of the library's current strategic plan.
While success in student learning always has been a core function supported by the library, preparing students for careers in technology-rich organizations requires modernizing Leyburn beyond the main level. Converting Leyburn's lower levels to make room for the center will transform a 1970s work area to a 21st century workshop supporting every facet of student learning.
W&L is in good company in establishing the center at this time. Peer institutions that have already established similar centers include Amherst College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Carleton College, Claremont McKenna College, Colby College, Colgate University, Colorado College, Davidson College, Grinnell College, Harvey Mudd College, Haverford College, Middlebury College, Pomona College, Smith College, University of Richmond, Vassar College, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University and Williams College.