The fourth floor of the Hillman Library re-opened at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester as part of the library’s ongoing, sweeping, multi-year renovation with a new focus on digital creation.
“It looks amazing,” Kornelia Tancheva, director of the University Library System, said of the fourth floor. “We've seen the construction and the next stage of the construction, so every time we go up it's ever more beautiful. There's going to be a lot of open study space for students.”
Undergraduates aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of the multi-year reconstruction, which started in August 2017.
The fourth floor also includes a study for graduate students working on their dissertations and reservation-based group study rooms with computer-friendly video screens.
Tancheva said there are four main guiding principles behind the Hillman Library renovations:
1. Focusing on staff expertise.
2. Turning the library into more of a place for the creation of knowledge instead just “passive consumption of information.”
3. Emphasizing special collections, which will be located on the third floor, to make the Hillman Library stand out from other libraries.
4. Creating an environment for intellectual collaboration and research for faculty, staff and students.
“So, in the whole space, we will have a lot of digital scholarship spaces that would allow for this creation,” Tancheva said. “We are going to be working toward helping both faculty and students function better in a digital environment, but I don't want you to think we're forgetting about the analogue, environment or the artifacts.”
The library is positioning itself to be an “essential partner at the research process at the university level” for faculty and researchers, Tancheva added, where research is highlighted and supported.
And much of that support will come from areas such as Digital Scholarship Services, located in the basement in the Digital Scholarship Commons.
Since it began three years ago, Digital Scholarship Services has assisted the Pitt community with data visualization, geographic information systems, digital publishing, data management and many other digital services.
Aaron Brenner, the associate university librarian for Digital Scholarship & Creation, said the services he and his team of about 10 specialists offer are part of the evolution of the modern library.
“I would say that in some ways the library has always been a place of creation,” Brenner said. “The kind of creation that we're used to taking place in the library is maybe writing. ... But what we're really working on is a much broader range of the kind of creation. So, creation might be recording audio, recording video, editing those things, doing data visualization, working with a group of people on a project where everybody has different roles building a (virtual reality) environment …”
Some of the additional tools Digital Scholarship Services offer include virtual reality equipment, basic and high-resolution scanners, a 3D scanner, and podcast and video equipment — all available for free for any Pitt affiliate, Brenner said, adding that reservations can be made to use the more high-end scanners and a soundproof “whisper-room” that can be used to record audio and video content.
Free consultations on many of these services also are available, and multiple workshops are planned for the fall 2018 semester.
There are other additions planned for Digital Scholarship Services, including a partnership with the University Center for Teaching and Learning to create an “academic makerspace” that would have virtual reality workstations, equipment, 3D printing and more.
The next phase for reconstruction is on the third floor, which will provide an open study space, group study rooms, areas for the library’s special collections and more. It’s scheduled to begin February 2019. The full renovations aren’t expected to be complete until 2021 or the end of 2022, Tancheva said.