“Cramped; Crowded” to Comfortable Research Commons: Indiana University Law School – Indianapolis

Ruth Lilly Law Library Research Commons Ren 1-1

The Ruth Lilly Law Library Research Commons

The renovation was originally scheduled to begin in July and be completed well before the start of classes in August 2010. However, numerous construction delays created a dilemma for the Ruth Lilly Law Library – put off the renovation of the out-of-date cramped and crowded reserve room or commence a two-month construction project just days before the start of classes. In anticipation of previous construction start dates, reserve materials had been weeded and relocated, shelving disassembled and stored, and a reference solution designed. Thus taking the long view, the library proceeded with the renovation to create a research commons that encourages collaboration and student use.

Identifying goals

The library, built in 2001, included a reserve room designed to house eight walk up on-line catalogs, a large now-rarely used reserve print collection located on index tables, a copier room and an awkward reference area.

Ruth Lilly Law Library Research Commons Ren 2-1

Another view of the research commons

The goal was to create an open inviting collaborative research space for students and faculty that would include both soft seating and carrel seating and repurpose the unused copier room. In addition, reference librarians desired a reconfigured reference desk that would be more visible to patrons and enable them to provide more lengthy reference consultations in addition to responding to brief reference questions.

Minimizing the disruption

No renovation comes without disruption. Acknowledging this fact, the library sought to minimize the impact on students and faculty. High use print materials were relocated on the first floor for the duration of the renovation. These print materials were supported with extensive pull-out shelving to compensate for the lack of work tables in the stacks.

Reference librarians provided reference service from the circulation desk and escorted students to their offices via a route through the public services work area and a long plastic encased walkway. Given the careful planning, there was no disruption to reference or other library services during the renovation.

Ruth Lilly Law Library Reserve Room Before Renovation

The Ruth Lilly Law Library before renovations

Just as no renovation comes without disruption, no renovation comes without surprises and delays. Ironically the most inconvenience arose from taking the “JagTag” machine offline; the machine is used by students to load credit onto a student’s id card for printing and other on-campus services. Taking the only JagTag machine in the law school offline required students to travel to another campus building for JagTag services.

Although demolition and construction finished within the anticipated time, furniture delays extended the project. There was much student ribbing about the new yoga space while the library awaited furniture delivery. Students returned from Thanksgiving break to a fully furnished exciting new collaborative space.

The research commons includes a reconfigured reference desk; selected print materials; a “New Titles shelf;” and 45 seats, including eleven carrels. Students have multiple options– shared tables, conversation areas or study carrels. Seating and work space is positioned for ease of use of the remaining print materials and food and beverages are permitted. Since opening, the research commons has become a popular and vibrant area in the library.

Catherine Lemmer is head of information services at the Indiana University School of Law–Indianapolis Ruth Lilly Law Library.

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