By Alastair Robertson, Director of Teaching and Learning Enhancement
Last week Michael Turpie (Director of IS), Adrian Neville (Head of Estates) and I paid a fleeting visit to Maynooth University outside Dublin, in Ireland. The purpose of the visit was to check out their award winning library as part of our information gathering for ideas for Abertay’s library refurbishment which will take place in summer 2017. It is fair to say that the visit exceeded all our expectations!
On arriving at the University we were briefed on the context of the institution and the development of their new library which was completed in 2011/12. The drivers for change were to improve the learning environment but also the way in which students and staff work. Students at Maynooth had requested that the building be “green” i.e. environmentally sustainable but also, perhaps contrarily, more power outlets! Other requests were for the library to accommodate a diversity of learning preferences and environments: from silent study areas to technology-enhanced group working areas and more informal social learning/ chill out areas. In addition, they wanted longer opening hours (especially at exam times) and on site catering facilities. Staff were keen for the new library to also offer a dedicated PG/ staff area, meeting rooms, non-timetabled space and events space(s). The third key stakeholder in the consultations was the local community as the library has a strong local engagement and service function so a publicly accessible cafe and exhibitions area was built into the spec of the new build. Finally, and this was really apparent in our short time at the university- the library is intended to provide a key focal point and source of pride. Aentslmost everything that was talked about in the presentation resonated with what we are trying to achieve at Abertay, even when they talked about their current curriculum reform exercise and intention to provide students with greater depth and breadth (liberal arts-type education).
Briefing over, it was time to experience the library first hand with an excellent tour. Michael, Adrian and I were all suitably impressed in a variety of ways. I have included a number of images from our visit below to give you a flavour of the place. One thing which I cannot emphasise enough, however, was the vibe of the place- it was buzzing! I was really struck at how busy it was and the level of engagement of the students in the building-it was inspirational and consolidated in my mind the need for us to provide a much richer campus environment at Abertay for our students and indeed our staff.
We have made tremendous progress over the last few years and I am very proud of the quality of education we provide our students but I am also convinced that the projects which we have begun to re-invigorate our campus are essential and will help consolidate our position as Scotland’s leading modern University!
So, to conclude this short article I would like to thank all of the staff and students we met at Maynooth for their time, generous hospitality and inspiration. I would also like to say a special thanks to our host, the University Librarian, Cathal McCauley.
22nd November 2016