Monday, 4 June 2012

Last but not least...

Hmm, well I've tried but just couldn't quite recreate some of the spectacular imagery Justin Kern came up with (included in this previous blog entry). The Collegiate Gothic style was in abundance, however with cloisters, gargoyles and arches everywhere. Ivy sprouts out from most of the older buildings and fireflies can even be spotted dotting in and out of the vegetation at night, adding to the "Chicagwarts" effect.

Ivy-clad colleges (based on Oxford University) at the University of Chicago

An Alumni event happening at the University of Chicago last weekend

The University of Chicago is a private research institution which has a whopping $6 billion (£4 billion) in endowment funding (money donated to the University) putting it right up there with the elite of US academic institutions. The most recent addition to UC's impressive campus is the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library which is well-known for holding all of its stock, some 2.5 million volumes, underground in a massive ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System). This caused controversy amongst those who prefer to see books but it should be noted that the University has taken great care to only include materials which do not lend themselves to browsing, such as bound journal volumes and special materials which need to be safety housed. The adjoining Regenstein Library also houses 4.5 million volumes, the vast majority of which are on open shelves. An extensive project to move over half a million item from a rolling storage facility in the basement of the Regenstein to the 12-aisle-wide ASRS at Mansueto was taking place while I was there and (as at GVSU) complimentary earplugs were available from helpdesks to help cope with the noise during a busy exam period! (UC students study on a quarterly system, unlike at the previous Universities I had visited, so most students were still around here). 

The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library's Grand Reading Room
The Mansueto Library's above ground space 
 also houses a hi-tech preservation facility

The Law Library at the University of Chicago -
Barack Obama was a Law Lectuer here until 2004.
Another area of the research I've been doing out here in America revolves around fines and invoicing. It's been interesting to note that none of the academic institutions which I have visited charge any fines on regular loan materials which are not on hold. In the University of Chicago's case this has long been engrained into the library's procedures, the main reason being that it helps to foster good relations between the department and their students, especially given that those not on merit- or means-tested places are paying around $43,000 (or £28,000) to attend.

It is a common theme in Universities in the US elsewhere too, with fines often having been dropped due to the administrative costs involved or to create good PR for the service (as at the University of Wisconsin) and to reduce barriers restricting student engagement (Grand Valley State University cited this). It is a trend which has not taken off in the UK so far (I am only aware of a handful of  institutions - including the University of Southampton and the University of East London - which have done this) so it will be interesting to see whether libraries back home start to follow suit in the next few years as many have done in operating longer opening hours and more liberal practices in managing the learning environment. It is worth noing too that higher tuition fees will be levied on Higher Education students in the UK from the next academic year and these will generally not actually be too far off the $43,000 being paid by University of Chicago students. 

After two days spent on the campus, I walked back along the South Shore Line to the Big Onion (said to be the inspiration for Gotham City, by the by) watching the skyline shine as the sun set over the City. Yesterday I spent much of my time at the famous Art Institute of Chicago, which was followed by some (equally famous) Chicago Deep Crust Pizza! I fly home today but will blog on about the time I've spent here when I get back. I'll be sure to get around to tackling CPD23 Thing 6 too.

Marc Chagall's America Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago
(as seen in the 1986 teen movie Ferris Beuller's Day Off)
Taken on the walk from the South Shore Line
up to Navy Pier on the North side

No comments:

Post a Comment