UT libraries plan for media labs to grow

Eleanor Dearman

Over the summer, the Perry-Castaneda and the Fine Arts libraries received a $125,000 upgrade. 

In June, two new media labs, which include 25 Mac workstations total, opened in both libraries. Digital media software including Final Cut Pro, Adobe Creative Suite and software for 3-D design and animation were installed on the Macs. The labs can be used by students for projects or can be reserved by professors for a class.

According to UT Libraries spokesman Travis Willmann, the labs are a small part of the Student Learning Commons initiative, a $4.5 million plan to turn the ground floor of the PCL into an education center. The plan includes an expanded media lab, collaborative study areas and the University Writing Center. According to Willmann, the funding for the project is coming from the College of Liberal Arts, the libraries and the provost office. Willmann said the displaced offices, located behind the ground floor circulation desk, will be relocated to the PCL’s first floor.

Learning Technologies Librarian Cynthia Fisher said the current media labs are a test for how to operate the future labs. 

“The thing that we’re offering currently is a smaller media lab with access to high-quality software for creating digital projects and teaching workshops,” Fisher said. “It’s part of what we hope will be on a much larger scale in the Learning Commons.”

Fisher said the labs’ hours will correspond with the hours of the library they are located in, meaning the media lab will be open continuously once the PCL is.

Fisher said the use of the labs has been minimal thus far, but one professor used them for a class over the summer. 

“There hasn’t been a ton of usage only because there weren’t many students here [during the summer],” Fisher said. “I think next week or so is going to be instrumental in helping us gauge the popularity of the media labs.” 

According to Fisher, the demand for digital work spaces by students and faculty has increased over the past two years.

“Some faculty in particular departments — let’s say in the School of Journalism — have those media labs available to them,” Fisher said. “Other faculty members across campus don’t. The libraries are trying to be that space for students and faculty that, regardless of your department, allow you to have access to a media lab.”

Willmann said the development of media labs follows a trend toward digital technology in libraries as a whole.

“Over the past 10-12 years, there’s been a major shift in the way libraries operate due to the Internet and the onset of new technologies and the conversion from physical to digital materials,” Willmann said. “The ways people are using libraries have changed with those technological changes.”

Starting in the spring, the media labs hope to host workshops that teach the technology offered, according to Andrew Wilbur, a staff member in Teaching & Learning Services at UT Libraries.  

“We want to bring in knowledgeable staff and faculty to give workshops for students and other staff and faculty members,” Wilbur said. “So, say somebody who’s got an expertise in, say, video editing would come in and do an hour-long workshop.”

Willmann said those involved in the Learning Commons project supporting the media labs predict the entire Learning Commons’ expansion, including the larger media lab, will be complete by fall 2015.