New Collaboration Studio offers alternative workspace

The Collaboration Studio invites communication with its booth seating and movable whiteboards. It also provides resources like zine kits, button makers and smartphone-based virtual reality. Courtesy of Yijia Hu.

Have you checked out the north section of the Main Library recently? Aside from the coffee vending machine that one covets, you shall find the new Collaboration Studio situated behind a glass wall and next to the Design Studio. Different from other places in the library and on Vassar’s campus, it features movable furniture, bright lighting and an open area where students can freely work together in the library. The Studio is also a space that promotes communication and creativity.

New to Vassar this fall semester, the Collaboration Studio offers flexibility and mobility. Director of the Library Andrew Ashton strives to build a useful and inspiring workspace for students. He shared in an emailed statement, “The new space offers a lot of flexible workspace as well as a collection of lightweight technologies that students can use to test out their ideas. We hope students will use the space to experiment with and prototype their ideas.”

Despite its location in the library, the Collaboration Studio holds the unique distinction of allowing—even encouraging—audible conversation. Students may meet with peers, friends and fellow classmates to chat openly about projects and ideas without worrying about disturbing someone who is trying to study. Digital Technologies Librarian Carolyn Moritz explained, “We hope students find this place to be a ‘no shushing’ space, an open space for work and play, a place that feels entirely theirs.”

Moritz also acknowledged the thoughtful planning behind the design of the Collaboration Studio, saying, “We were deliberate about an atmosphere that encourages collaboration. We explored the nature of unstructured learning while designing this space. At one point we really ran with the idea that the Collaboration Studio serves as an ad hoc ‘in-between space’ between the Library Classroom and Design Studio.” Equipped with 32 workstations and Mac computers, the Main Library Classroom (room 160) provides a space for technical course instructions. The Design Studio is furnished with Mac computers and scanners.

The Collaboration Studio has been in the works for some time. Ashton noted, “The project started a few years ago when we decided to repurpose the old Reserves Room, which had been closed down and was just being used for storage. We worked together with colleagues in CIS [Computing Information Services] to talk to a lot of students and faculty about their ideas to create a ‘Makerspace’ somewhere on campus. It turned out there was a lot of interest, but also a number of other similar projects happening on campus.”

Over time, the idea of a studio came into the picture. The Library completed the renovation over the past summer before receiving a generous grant from the George I. Alden Trust, which predominantly supports high education in the Worcester area.

Library staff members hope that students can make the Collaboration Studio a space of their own and bring different ideas from a variety of disciplines into a comfortable environment. Moritz commented, “The equipment is lightweight, with the hope that what we provide is a springboard that will encourage students to bring in their own projects. Most importantly we feel strongly that providing this kind of resource in a place that is not tied to a single department encourages interdisciplinary collaboration.”

Both the Design Studio and the Collaboration Studio are open all hours of the day and night. Ashton elaborated, “This is all part of the after hours area in the library as well, so you can work there anytime. We really hope this will be a ‘non-quiet’ space in the library, where students can be interacting without worrying about disturbing people trying to study.”

The Collaboration Studio has already become a hub of activity. Metadata and Systems Librarian Arianna Schlegel commented, “We are thrilled to already see so much activity and collaboration happening in the space. We hope that as the students begin to take more ownership of the Studio, they will use it to create scholarship in ways we hadn’t even dreamed of. We eagerly look forward to this, and to any ways in which we can partner with or support these explorations.”

Looking to future possibilities, the library staff and administrators are planning on hosting workshops and events in the Studio that Ashton and the rest of the staff believe will be helpful for students interested in learning new skills and employing the tools offered. The library staff welcomes suggestions on this initiative and aims to make the space as useful as possible for students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *