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REF NO.: 96

SUBJECT: Memorial University enhances its library and computing services with information commons at the Queen Elizabeth II Library
DATE: Jan. 9, 2004

Memorial University has opened a research support facility on the main floor of the Queen Elizabeth II Library that will make the comprehensive research library - one of Canada's largest and best - even more useful and convenient for students and researchers. University and government officials, together with students, faculty and staff held a ceremony today to mark the opening of the facility.

In addition to being a place where one can seek out databases, journals, periodicals, books and other information, the library will now also contain a sophisticated networked computing work area - dubbed The Commons - that will help students and other users craft and polish their research projects using word processing, presentation and spreadsheet software. In addition, The Commons provides students help with their writing and with multimedia presentations and access to the Internet.

A collaborative effort of three units of the university - Computing and Communications, the Queen Elizabeth II Library, and the Writing Centre - The Commons draws on the technical, research, and writing expertise of these units to offer students improved access to the library's extensive resources.

Richard Ellis, the university librarian, said that The Commons concept is closely aligned with the library's essential mission. "I am enthusiastic about the opening of this facility and about the services the students will now be able to access in the library," Mr. Ellis said. "This is an extension of what we have always done in the library and we have simply added a logical part of the research and writing process to the library facility. We are helping students to achieve their academic goals and this initiative is part of that same ethos.

"The term 'commons' is being used for facilities with similar functions at other Canadian academic libraries," Mr. Ellis explained. "The use of the word 'commons' harks back to the time when the commons was a central workspace in an agricultural community, integrated into the life of the community and providing access to a shared resource for everyone, much as libraries and computing centres do today."

The Commons will staffed by library and computing professionals and student assistants, a key point according to Dr. Michael Collins, Memorial's acting vice-president (academic). "I am very pleased that this facility not only provides the basic technical infrastructure, but also provides students with access to personnel who can help them with writing and technical questions," Dr. Collins said. "These important human resources will go a long way to ensuring students derive the maximum benefit from this impressive addition to our campus."

To create The Commons, a planning group rearranged the reference area to allow better access to existing electronic resources and added 40 workstations equipped with PowerPoint, Word and Excel programs. The Commons includes a centre which will assist students who wish to incorporate multimedia materials, such as video and photographic elements, into reports and papers. The terminals are wired to the Internet and students can download information from the Web and check e-mail. The Commons also utilizes an innovative worktable design that facilitates both individual and collaborative work and optimizes the number of users the new facility can handle.

"The Commons is a great example of how we can leverage our collective assets and our skills," said Wilf Bussey, director of the Department of Computing and Communications at Memorial. "This initiative has been a true partnership among the library, the Writing Centre and our department, and will provide a level of support for our students that could not have otherwise been achieved."

Ginny Ryan, director of the university's Writing Centre, noted that her centre's involvement underlines an important element of the research process. "At the centre we stress the idea that thinking and writing are not mutually exclusive activities," Ms. Ryan explained. "The Commons will enable students to get help with their writing within the library's research environment, and I hope that many of them begin to see that the act of writing and clarifying their thoughts is actually part of the process of deriving meaning from their research. I am very pleased to be providing our writing service in the library. "

At the ceremony to mark the opening of The Commons, a number of prizes were awarded to students, including a Viewsonic computer monitor and PalmPilot, both courtesy of the Computing Purchasing Centre, and a knapsack, donated by the University Bookstore which was filled with items donated by many businesses and organizations both on and off campus.

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