AASCU Innovations Exchange
Your Source for Innovations in Public Higher Education

University of Central Florida logo
Project Title:University Libraries Knowledge Commons: A Technology-Driven Transformation from Print-Centered to Student-Centered Learning SpaceInstitution Name:University of Central Florida (UCF) Innovation Category:Program Design and Delivery Project Director:Frank R. Allen, Associate Director for Administrative Services University LibrariesContact Information:(407) 823 2892, fallen@mail.ucf.eduWebsite:http://library.ucf.edu/NewLook/
Project Description:

The Knowledge Commons brings technology, study and research, collaboration, academic support, and research resources together in a dynamic, revitalized, 21,000 sq. ft. of learning space in the Orlando campus library. It includes:

  • ubiquitous power and wired and wireless network access
  • 67% of seating spaces equipped with built-in PCs
  • collaborative group study areas featuring dedicated PCs, wall-mounted displays, and rolling white boards to enhance peer interaction
  • attractive visual screening and acoustical treatments that reduce distraction and dampen noise
  • consultation stations that provide space for one-on-one research and writing center support
  • seating that maximizes comfort for extended study periods

This project was made possible through an award of UCF technology fees, which are competitively granted. The project was ranked number one out of 68 project proposals submitted during the 2009-10 technology fee award cycle.


The following objectives were derived from extensive student and faculty member feedback:

  • increase seating within an existing footprint, in recognition of the growing emphasis on student-centered spaces in libraries
  • increase desktop PCs to expand access to library information resources, and increase guided instruction opportunities from librarians on-site
  • expand wired-group study spaces to facilitate technology-assisted collaborative learning
  • increase power outlets and expand wireless access to enable students to access library resources with mobile technology devices
  • enhance quality of space through architectural design to maximize comfort, acoustics, and ergonomics
  • Building user count for Fall 2010 increased 8.4% over Fall 2009.
  • Questions at the reference and information desk for Fall 2010 semester increased 54.5% over Fall 2009; in-depth research consultations increased 26.4% 
  • University Writing Center student consultations in the library increased 9.1% for a sample week in Fall 2010 over Fall 2009 
  • Positive commentary continues to be received from the commons guestbook, suggestion boxes, Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. 
  • LibQUAL+ surveys show the gap between perceived and desired library physical space widened from .78 to 1.03 between 2002 and 2009, demonstrating increasing need. The LibQUAL+ will be administered again in 2011.
Challenges/Problems Encountered:
  • Fire and building code deficiencies in our 44-year-old building (enlarged and last updated in 1984) almost derailed project approval. The removal of traditional library shelving and opening up of the space improved egress and sight lines, helping to mitigate concerns. 
  • The project necessitated a shift of almost one million print volumes, and the transfer of another 5,474 cubic feet of print material to off-site storage, a significant physical and intellectual undertaking.
Evaluation Approach:
  • How were the outcomes arrived at?  Since 2003, University Libraries has conducted the annual LibQUAL+ student and faculty member satisfaction survey. Over the years a pattern has emerged revealing repeated suggestions for (1) improved building conditions and appearance; (2) improved study environment, including reduced noise, more comfortable seating, and more access to power; and (3) more and better PCs and seating.  The survey will continue to be administered to assess satisfaction with the innovations.
  • Who is responsible for assessment related to this innovation?  The director and associate directors for public services, administrative services, and systems and technologies. 
Potential for Replication:The success of the Knowledge Commons project stems partly from a synergistic combination of the centrality of the library’s location, staffed professional assistance to provide support with research and information needs, an environment conducive to quiet research and engagement, availability of print resources to support research, extensive hours in a perceived safe environment, and in-house café facilities. The extent to which success of this concept can be replicated outside the library may be conditioned by the presence of some or all of these factors.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:John C. Hitt , Presidentjhitt@mail.ucf.edu
(407) 823-1823
Date Published: Saturday, April 30, 2011