QualityMetrics proudly presents the work we did on the Rasmuson Library Student Success Center at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Our work there started before the pandemic and was concluded during the pandemic; the library is working actively to make the plans come to life and offer a vibrant space to the students on campus. Our work involved extensive research with potential partners on the campus to determine the set of partners that would be useful to bring into the library space. We studied the space with videos, photos, and virtual walkthroughs. Our team included design architects who emphasized to us that, yes, we can design the space without setting foot on campus which was what we ended up doing.  Maybe not ideal but effectively carried forward during the pandemic and placing the library in the position to start work on the plans as soon as the climate improved. Our report is available here for other academic libraries who may be interested in designing a student success center in the future. We look forward to working with more academic libraries that are ready to revitalize their spaces with the user experience at the center of our work.

Executive Summary

This report provides a roadmap for creating a Student Success Center in the Rasmuson Library (RLSSC). The top floor of the building has windows all around and is ideal for housing learning activities students enjoy participating in, enhancing their retention and graduation rates. Despite the challenges of the outdated look and feel, the Rasmuson Library is a space students have positive feelings for. Students love the support they receive from the experts and professional librarians. They love the 23/7 study space and they are clamoring for even more such spaces.

Many units on campus can be potential partners at the Student Success Center. Many student support services are spread throughout the campus and having a flexible way to make them more visible and well known is critical. The library can be the hub that serves that function. The Writing Center and Tutoring Services are active learning environments that would fit easily in the library. Such services are typically available to students after office hours. Other good fits include the Honors Program, Disabilities Services, and the Speaking Lab. Limited hour services can also be satellite or temporary service offerings in the RLSSC from other partner units across the campus.

Flexibility is paramount as we bring services into the library building; we recommend a fluid organizational structure that is based on partnerships defined through well-crafted Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and a continuous commitment to collaboration and innovation. What we see as important services today will morph over the next ten years and beyond. Libraries “changed, changed utterly”[1] during the pandemic, yet they are more important than ever as spaces where physical distancing and social solidarity support learning. Navigating the physical and digital library experience in tandem is where the Rasmuson Library needs to focus its attention.

The challenge of relocating the print collection is the first phase of the proposed timeline. Many academic libraries have faced this challenge over the last few years and UAF will have to develop a plan for removing items to remote or compact storage.

Library print collections need to be managed differently at UAF. Remote storage and compact storage can serve the needs of UAF and other libraries in Alaska. A strategic solution to the long-term shared print retention needs to be developed for UAF and Alaska. How many print information resources and assets do libraries in Alaska want to retain and for how long? Print and physical items are assets in an environment where mailing costs are high.  At the same time, building and renovating spaces is also a costly proposition especially in an environment where new construction can only happen for part of the year. The RLSSC is a first step in the long-term transformation of the Rasmuson Library!

[1] Christopher Cox, “Changed, Changed Utterly” Inside Higher Ed, June 5, 2020: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/06/05/academic-libraries-will-change-significant-ways-result-pandemic-opinion