It Don’t Mean A Thing, If We Don’t Have A Swing (Space)

This summer will mark the beginning of a massive renovation of Kresge Centennial Hall. The MMLC, along with many of the building’s faculty occupants, departments, programs and centers, will move to a set of temporary locations during the nearly 3-year project. We’re very excited for Kresge’s future, but we’re also working to make sure that our assigned interim “swing space” in Northwestern’s Main Library allows us to continue meeting the learning and instructional needs of Weinberg students and faculty. In this article, we want to provide more details about our upcoming temporary home, explain how our operations will change, and share some suggestions that may help.

Swing Space (2014-2017): What to Expect

At the end of Spring Quarter Finals Week, the MMLC will close and relocate its operations. Most of the major moving and setup is scheduled to occur during the two weeks before and after graduation. No matter how prepared we are, packing/unpacking and sorting will still demand a considerable amount of our time. Because of this, while we set up our new lab space, the MMLC will not be operational during the first 3-week “quarter” of Summer Session (June 23 to July 11). UPDATE: Our move day has been pushed back so there is a possibility we will still not be up and running during the second 3-week “quarter” of Summer Session (July 14 to August 1).

Once we are set up, you’ll be able to find us primarily on the basement level of the Library, with a few other satellite operations spread elsewhere. Though it seems as if we’re moving from one basement to another, albeit this time without windows, we’re still excited about our temporary space. First, it’s an ideal location since many of the classes that would have been taught in Kresge are also moving to the Library. This proximity to our key constituents will continue to be a great boon. Second, we’ll be able to do most of what we do from a single hub: administrative offices as well as our circulation desk, and primary and affiliated computer classrooms will all be co-located and quickly accessible from the central elevators. Third, we’ll be sharing operational space and resources with Academic & Research Technologies with whom we have been long-time collaborators on various projects and initiatives.

Tentative footprint of the MMLC in the basement of NU Library during their Swing Space

Tentative footprint of the MMLC in the basement of NU Library during Swing Space (as of February 2014)

After our move is complete, we’ll be ready to start supporting undergraduate classes and faculty again. During our stay in our swing space, most operations and services will remain the same, but some will need to be pared down to avoid unnecessary redundancy with what the library offers nearby. To plan our operational spaces, we have been having weekly meetings with both Facilities Management and our swing space architect (Alan Armbrust from STR Partners). They have done a fantastic job with the planning, so we’re optimistic that our new environment will be able to handle the same loads of activities we currently do now.

Here is a summary of what’s happening with our facilities:

  1. Circulation of all portable equipment (cameras, voice recorders, microphones, adaptors, dongles, etc.) will continue as usual from our new circulation desk in room B183.
  2. We will have one MMLC-operated computer classroom (as opposed to our current two) in the library. In addition to the MMLC computer classroom, faculty can reserve one of two nearby computer classrooms: B182 and B238, operated by Academic & Research Technologies and the Library respectively. The MMLC is working to ensure that both of these rooms can accommodate all of the same activities and software, including DiLL.
  3. The functions of our drop-in lab (like Kresge 1-335) will break up during swing space. Basic computing and group meeting needs will be met, by the Library’s existing Info Commons and new 1-South area.
  4. For independent learning, Skype use, speaking drills, and digital project collaboration, we are setting up a series of well-equipped workstations in the handsomely appointed Listening Center, located on the ground floor of the beautiful Deering Library.
  5. In support of the digital classroom needs for Art Theory & Practice, the MMLC will maintain a “satellite” lab in the former Roycemore School building. This both places the resources with their program and also relieves a significant portion of scheduling load for our lab in the Library basement.
  6. We will retain a small student production studio, located in Locy Hall. This studio will continue to support courses that wish to provide students with advanced software tools and hardware to produce high quality video projects.
  7. Recognizing that faculty offices for many instructors will be very far away, we are actively seeking a small, reservable shared office space within the Library for use by faculty to hold quiet or private meetings with students. We hope to coordinate such a facility, but do not have any firm plans yet.

Our services for the most part will remain the same:

  1. Audiovisual (“AV”) services (such as video clip requests) should be requested at the MMLC transaction counter in room B183.
  2. Project consultations will be held in MMLC offices in the Library basement.
  3. We will continue to support undergraduate courses taught both in our labs and within the building: lab hours, workshops, technical assistance.
  4. We will still have extremely stimulating (and well-catered!) events like World.Wine.Web., and will likely host these in other campus buildings (Harris, or University Hall) from time-to-time.
  5. We will continue to organize workshops for faculty in our computer classroom.

Our main goals for the swing space have already been met by the plans: we are happy that our main staff is still a unit and we’ll still be able to offer all of the things people have to expect of us. While we will be in a smaller, less unified space for the next few years, our temporary location does offer some opportunities that can only better how we serve our patrons. As said, we are glad to still be in close proximity to the classes being taught in the towers, and we are also pleased with the proximity to library resources. This includes the people! We’re looking to bolster our relationships with other units on campus who do similar work, such as NUAMPS and Digital Collections. We look forward to fostering more innovation and collaborative projects.

Tips for Faculty During “Transition Time”

So what does Kresge’s renovation period mean for faculty? Before and after class, many faculty will no longer have access to nearby office spaces, presenting many challenges. The MMLC has worked with the library to ensure that faculty will have access to the resources they need.

Scheduling classes in a lab: As mentioned, the MMLC will have only one schedule-able computer lab facility under its control within NU Library. In addition to this lab, the MMLC will have certain scheduling rights for both the A&RT B182 (also known as the Library Mac Lab) and the Library’s B238 Mac/PC computer lab which will all be adjacent to the MMLC’s swing space. These units have been generous enough to allow us to outfit their spaces with equipment and software necessary to use DiLL, conduct online testing and anything else that faculty has used the MMLC labs for in the past. Not much will change in terms of trying to schedule a lab, requests can always be sent to – if the MMLC teaching lab is not available, we can suggest those alternative labs based on your planned activities. The exact mechanism for reserving these rooms through the MMLC hasn’t been worked out yet. For the moment, B182 may be reserved directly from within RES, the Registrar’s room scheduling system. For instructors teaching during the first weeks of Summer Session, reserving the existing B182 lab in RES is the best option. 

Photocopying: Many faculty have told us that they need access to photocopiers that accept departmental IDs. Nothing is set in stone yet, but this need is on everyone’s radar. The library has many photocopy machines, and some already do accept Department ID logins, so the effort is to expand this capacity and direct faculty to the appropriate equipment.

Faculty Meetings with Students: As mentioned, many faculty offices departmental offices will be very far from the Library. This will make it difficult for an instructor to have a private conversation with a student after class, or even just to have impromptu tutoring sessions. Just like the copiers, the news of this need has reached the ears of the people from Facilities Management, WCAS, and NU Library who are working on the swing space logistics. Some instructors may find it beneficial to request a carrel (small office) in one of the Library towers. The supply of carrels is limited and may not be available to all, so the MMLC is working towards having a scheduleable office on the second floor of the library which could be accessed by checking out a key from our Lab Desk.

A New Kresge: What We Can Look Forward To?

Now that our input into our Swing Space plans is nearing its end and Facilities will be moving forward with finding a contractor to actually get the space ready for us, the MMLC is ready to address what our new space in Kresge will be like. When we come back to the new and improved Kresge, we’ll be “moving on up” – literally: as in, the second floor (and out of the basement!) in the new (and wider) east wing of the building, where the German offices currently are. Our neighbors will be Kaplan Humanities Center, and the Department of French & Italian. Art Theory & Practice (AT&P) will be directly below us as opposed to being a mile away while we’re in our Swing Space.

As these plans develop, we’re hoping to have the chance to collaborate with both Kaplan and AT&P in order to increase our technological capabilities. We’re talking future thinking here, with shared facilities and equipment. A 3D printer? A Studio Space? We’re considering it all. We will also be getting our public lab space back since we won’t have the redundancy of the library’s resources in Kresge. So we again will have our usual printing capabilities, viewing stations, and Skype/Language drill stations; but we’re also thinking big there, focusing on the upward trend of project based learning by having breakout spaces for collaborative meetings, and as most language labs need – a place where one can actually speak. We are hoping the new MMLC will be the place to go, as the heart of humanities instruction at the undergraduate level.

It’s all very exciting, even though it seems like a long way off. The architecture firm for the new Kresge is Lothan Van Hook DeStefano Architecture – please take a look at their previous work to get an idea of what their aesthetic is. They in turn are also working with a Technology Design firm, Convergent Technologies Design Group, in order to insure that all of our technological advances can be implemented.

Is there anything you’d like to see in the new Kresge? Glassboards? 3D Projection? Please let us know! This April I (Cecile) will be attending the NAB Conference in Las Vegas again so I’ll be on the lookout for some innovative ways that technology can help humanities faculty teach.


— Matt Taylor and Katrin Völkner contributed to this article