UHCL: Updates to the Neumann Library will create innovative learning spaces

October 29, 2021

University of Houston-Clear Lake Alfred R. Neumann Library nears completion of filled renovation project
with innovations in technology, collaboration, teaching and research.

“We had started planning for the renovation before the pandemic started,” said Neumann Library Executive Director Vivienne McClendon. “We had additional funds, so we are renovating and refurnishing the whole
library floor. ”

She said their overall plan was to make the library more accessible, and most importantly
all to give students more agency on how and where they wanted to study and learn.

The library also adds a new presentation space, an active learning classroom,
and an XR lab, all designed to be flexible. The open presentation space in particular
lends itself to “fortuitous learning”.

“This means that a student may come across something going on, such as a presentation
or a loudspeaker, in that open space, “she said.” Because there are no barriers or doors,
students don’t have to be intimidated by the idea of ​​just pulling up a chair and listening.
The speakers can be via Zoom or in person, and we’ll have huge monitors open on the wall.
We will be able to seamlessly connect to other locations. ”

The active learning classroom is different from “traditional” classrooms in that the instruction
librarian is not anchored to a podium at the front of the room.

“The instructor can work from a mobile device and can control everything from anywhere
in the room, “she said.” We will have monitors along the wall and the desks will not be
connected to the walls, so everything is fully configurable. From a capacity perspective,
it’s more than a conference room. ”

Next to the Active Learning classroom will be the new XR Lab, where professors who
using augmented or virtual reality headsets in the classroom can go further in teaching
in collaboration with library staff.

“It’s a place where students can come in and do their work with a headset,” she said.
noted. “Virtual reality and augmented reality form a continuum. Students can experience it, but it also creates
the ability to create and design. There is a huge market for VR designers – that is
the “next thing” in technology. There are no limits here. The laws of fair physics
do not apply. ”

In the study areas of the second floor of the library, the addition of electric underlay
to any space allows students to sit and work anywhere, instead of
having to sit near an outlet along the wall. Furniture with configurable casters also
allows students to easily switch from solo work to group work.

“We think our students appreciate the ‘café’ atmosphere, being alone but close to others,
where they can choose to collaborate or study independently, ”she said. The new furniture has been selected to meet the needs of all students, including
students on the autism spectrum. “We have corners that are closed, but not real
rooms, ”she said. “We hope that these corners will appeal to everyone. They have a “pressure”
about them, a sense of comfort. They block external stimuli, and they are activated
wheels so that they are fully configurable. ”

The study rooms will also be enhanced by technology. Extra-wide glass panels will replace
blackboards and walls will have touch screens. “Many study rooms will have monitors,
so students can connect their laptop to the monitor and work collaboratively
on presentations and other work, ”she said. “All the second floor, students should
be able to connect wirelessly. It is a major asset for the students; it is not necessary any more
to remember the connectors. Anyone can come in and discuss PowerPoints or group projects. ”

With innovative furniture and lighting selections, McClendon said she hopes students
would quickly feel the new vibe of the library.

Other amenities and services include a new Starbuck coffee machine with huge TV
continuous reporting and a new service center for research assistance.

“We added more ADA-compliant space for each desk to improve accessibility, and
the research assistants will be in a glass area so that everyone can see that we have
expert librarians available to help students with their research, ”she said.

McClendon added that she hoped the library renovation would be completed during
start of the spring semester 2022. New furniture is regularly delivered,
unpacked and assembled, and new highlights such as research desk, circulation
office, and many more are on the way. To stay connected to the renovation of the library
process, go online.

This press release was produced by the University of Houston-Clear Lake. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

Norma A. Roth