sustainable learning spaces

Sustainable Commons: Bringing Multimodal Composition and Digital Media Production to the (Physical) Center of Pacific University

Alfred Weiss, Pacific University
Marita Kunkel, Pacific University

Imagining a Digital Downtown
Developing Partnerships
Next Steps


At Pacific University, Oregon, students from across disciplines are not only increasingly being required to produce digital materials and multimodal products as a regular part of their academic course work, but they also face social and economic pressure to be literate and productive in digital and social media. Students are not the only ones to be under such pressure. Faculty are also creating and using course content, lecture materials, academic works, and library collections that use or incorporate digital and online media. To meet the specialized requirements for producing and managing this wide variety of multimedia work, Pacific University Library is developing a new multimedia center on its Forest Grove campus that brings together technical facilities, expertise, and collaborative workspaces to aid in the production and development of new modes of student and faculty scholarshipa Media Commons.

The Media Commons has been designed to be academically and fiscally sustainable and to facilitate interactive and interdisciplinary work. To this end, the Commons is being developed by the Library in partnership with academic departments that have a media-intensive curricula or intensively use digital content, including Media Arts, Graphic Arts, and Studio Arts. Along with a new minor in Editing & Publishing, all of these programs are dependent on overlapping software and hardware packages, and a single space could be leveraged to serve each department, as well as the broader University community served by the Library. Through sharing the development and maintenance costs, each partner will see a substantial cost savings by not building new program-specific labs to meet increased program and student loads. Moreover, because the combined resources will be greater than any single department could bring to building a lab, the shared facility will be a more robust and up-to-date environment than any one unit could develop on its own.

The partnerships that sustain the technical vitality of the Commons also promote the convergence and collaboration that are the hallmark of new media.  The technologies and expertise that are required for the partner programs are the same that are required for both student and scholarly media production in other disciplines. A Commons that supports media intensive disciplines, therefore, would also support new services to help students and faculty alike fully engage in the creation and distribution of digital materials. For students, these services would include technical and expert support in the creation of multimedia projects in any discipline and support for the creation of scientific visualizations and independent media work. For faculty, the Commons will support the development of media-rich course content, scholarly materials, visualizations, and electronic publishing, and will provide a space for technology training and faculty development in teaching with technology. We believe that such a facility will be a vital space to encourage discovery at Pacific. Because the resources of the Commons will be centrally located in the Forest Grove Campus Library and open to all members of Pacific University, the space will allow students and researchers to envision and explore connections between different digital scholarship and educational projects. Furthermore, because this space serves so many different communities, it will encourage collaboration and partnerships among and between the different constituencies that make up the University. Through encouraging exploration and collaboration, we believe that this space will be a vital seedbed for curricular and scholarly innovation.

At the writing of this chapter, we have just begun the renovation of the Library space that will become the Media Commons. The renovations were scheduled to be carried out in the summer of 2013, and we planned to have the Commons fully operational for the spring of 2014. In this chapter, therefore, we will discuss the theoretical underpinnings of the Commons and how we see the space as a vital part of a 21st-century library. We will then describe how we put together the coalition that is committed to championing, developing, and maintaining the Commons and how the design process has been influenced by the concerns of the facility’s stakeholders. Finally, we will discuss our implementation plans with particular emphasis on how we will mediate between the competing needs for the space among the stakeholders, while encouraging broad use of the space by all members of the campus community.

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