98 · Representative Documents: Descriptions of Spaces
Indiana University Bloomington:
The Research Commons: A Concept for the Wells Library East Tower
The Research Commons will increase efficiencies not only for researchers who may value a central
point for sharing information, but also for the disparate units of a complex university, where one unit
often recreates or duplicates what is offered by another.
Just as scientists need laboratories, researchers in every discipline need environments designed and
equipped to meet their scholarly needs. The Herman B Wells Library offers essential space in a
prime campus location. The entire East Tower of the Wells Library, with floor space greater than 11
football fields, will be dedicated to the Research Commons.
Technology will be an essential and conspicuous component of the Research Commons, with
equipment necessary to support a wide range of scholarly activity. The Research Commons will
provide a scholars laboratory that will serve as a resource for digital media production and archiving.
Other dedicated space will accommodate high-performance computing, statistical and mathematical
services and software, database support, and visualization. Collaborative technologies that allow
people separated by hundreds or thousands of miles to interact as naturally as if they were together in
a meeting room are now of genuine value to scholars in any discipline.
Key to the success of the Research Commons will be balancing the space for active collaboration and
computing with quiet space essential for reading or contemplation. A redesigned reading room on the
first floor, for example, will provide a well-lit inspirational environment for individual work. Centers
for research expertise will be integrated on floors with their complementary collections. Shared space
will encourage community-building within and across disciplines. Seminar rooms will offer space for
faculty to form and develop ideas.
A suite of online services will accompany these physical spaces. By accessing information and
services through an online portal, scholars will not have to be in the Wells Library to experience
many of the benefits of the Research Commons.
A research library—the traditional locus for scholars to interact among the collections they value—
can offer similar opportunities in a digital age. The rich collections of the IUB Libraries will be a
central feature of the Research Commons. Priority will be given to services and spaces in direct
support of print and digital collections. The Wells Library is home to the books, journals, microfiche,
films, and other materials that researchers, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, rely
upon for their scholarly needs.
In many disciplines, electronic collections and data sets are essential. Government statistics, now
available online, can be sorted and manipulated in ways not possible just a few years ago. Software,
including IU-licensed software, will be broadly available. Partnering units will offer their own
specialized databases, programs, and information resources.
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By investing in this concept for the Research Commons in the Wells Library, Indiana University now
has the opportunity to address key needs voiced by its research faculty, leverage established
strengths, and increase organizational efficiencies. Creation of the Research Commons will advance
the university’s core mission and signal a major commitment to researchers in all disciplines.