Four visitors from an Arizona law library spent a day exploring the Arc, Olin Library's technology center, earlier this month as part of their planning process for an innovative user space at the Maricopa County Superior Court (MCSC) in Phoenix.
E-Learning Librarian Chad Curtis, who oversees the Arc, worked with Myndi Clive, reference librarian at the MCSC Law Library, to make her and her colleagues' visit well worth the trip, which was funded by a planning grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Curtis facilitated a conversation centered on the history of the Arc and lessons learned since it first opened in 2003—and how that knowledge might inform their own efforts to design an integrative legal learning center.
"After coming across the Arc online while researching innovative library spaces, and then speaking to Chad during the grant-writing process, it was clear that Olin Library was a place to visit," Clive says. "It was useful to physically view a space that has been planned with a specific purpose and to find out what the space is currently used for as well as possibilities for the future."
Clive's team envisions a space that makes their court library's resources, which are increasingly electronic, much more accessible to their community of users. With 90 percent of reference inquiries coming from local citizens without legal representation or knowledge of the justice system resources, the MCSC Law Library staff hope to develop a space where members of the public can easily search, use, and learn about legal resources in a variety of formats. In addition to creating an area for teaching computer-based skills, the planners hope to incorporate semi-private desks as well as separate rooms for drafting documents and collaborating.
While the Arc was designed within a different context—that of an academic library system—it includes many similar elements: a teaching lab, presentation room, open area with computer workstations, and expert staff close at hand. Rick Rager, who works in the court’s technology department, says he was especially glad for the chance to hear how various WU Libraries staff members now view the Arc, a decade after it was built.
"I appreciated that the Arc is about 10 years removed from the initial implementation and believe that we can continue to learn from what has worked well and what might be done differently," Rager says. "I was interested in the equipment and technology employed, all the way down to the furniture and its utility and flexibility. We're still in the midst of discussing how we might use existing space, but I'm also thinking about technology options, connectivity, hardwiring versus Wi-Fi, security concerns, and so forth. So it was great to meet with various people with different perspectives." Robin Hoskins, grant and specialty courts coordinator for MCSC, agrees that it was time well spent.
"Chad did an excellent job creating an agenda that included so many layers of staff and areas of expertise," Hoskins says. "We really got a clear picture of the Arc, how it began, and where it is today."
Curtis says that the MCSC group's visit was also timely and beneficial to him and other WU Libraries staff who participated in the conversation, especially with potential reconfigurations of the Arc on the horizon and some changes already underway. One of those involves replacing the aging computer hardware with new machines later this summer—and switching from PCs to Macs.
"Updates in the Arc Lab include MacBook Pro laptops, which will improve sight lines among teachers and students," Curtis says. "The new computers also introduce flexibility in software configurations, giving teachers and students a choice between the platforms they prefer. The MacBook Pro laptops will have the ability to run Windows 7 with Boot Camp, providing equal support for platforms that the university community depends upon for productivity and instruction."