CLEMSON, South Carolina – Walk through one of the doors embedded in the three-story wall of windows at the front of the building’s sleek white exterior and you’ll find a Starbucks, a geospatial technology lab and a digital studio sponsored by Adobe. Open work spaces all around you buzz with researchers collaborating on high-definition displays, computer monitors and laptops. It might sound like a high-tech incubator in Silicon Valley, but it’s Clemson University’s main library - which had more than 1.4 million visitors in 2016 - as it joins others across the country in adapting to the digital age.
Clemson’s R.M. Cooper Library is not the book repository your parents got “shushed” in. There are books, yes, and plenty of them – four of the building’s six floors are packed with them - but technology is beginning to transform how students and faculty use a building that has been central to university life since it was built in 1966.
The main entrance to the R.M. Cooper Library at Clemson University bustles with activity.
“Libraries have always been on the forefront of learning environments,” said Maggie Farrell, who was Clemson's Dean of Libraries for two years until she took on the same position at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on August 1. Prior to Clemson, Farrell was dean of libraries at the University of Wyoming for 13 years, and was associate dean of libraries at Montana State University for six years before that.
"We integrated technology years ago. Before there was HTML there was MARC, the coding language we used in cataloguing, so librarians have been leaders in technology from the very beginning,” she said.
Farrell said that as computers and the internet rapidly take over the transfer of information, Clemson’s libraries are not just adjusting accordingly, but using the big shift from paper to digital as an opportunity to rebrand what a library is.
“The libraries' main purpose is to facilitate access and use of information. That’s particularly important today because kids are technologically savvy. Clemson students and faculty need assistance understanding the global environment of information because they work in a global, complex information environment,” said Farrell. “The goal is to teach students the skills they will need to navigate this complex environment, to help faculty with their research and to build learning spaces that help students and faculty learn and apply information.”
Those collaborative learning spaces are now everywhere you look as soon you enter the building:
The first door on your right leads into a room that was transformed into a digital resources laboratory in 2013 in collaboration with Clemson Computing and Information Technology (CCIT), Dell and the National Science Foundation. The facility features a wall of fifteen 46-inch high-definition displays, a 16-node computational cluster, laptops for 16 students with software customization available, network and video connections in the floor, a high-definition video-conferencing system and four projectors – one of which creates a holographic-type image.
Up the stairs to the left you find the Adobe Digital Studio, a space designed to nourish creativity and innovation using state-of-the-art technology. In 2015, Clemson became the only university in the country to give students, faculty and staff full access to the Adobe Creative Cloud. The new studio is designed to help them utilize it. The space features a soundproof audio production studio, a video production studio with green screen, collaborative workstations with digital wall displays and a nine-display “Behance” wall that can be used as an instruction tool or as a high-tech version of sticky notes.