Summer Transformations
Reshaping Library Spaces with Dale Kohler

Dale Kohler (B.S. Graphic Communication '88) is the director of library information technology (LIT), although that title does not begin to explain the extent of his role implementing student-driven change at Kennedy Library. From more power to more media, more seats to more quiet spaces, students have been asking to experience more from their favorite study spot. This summer, Kohler has been integral in making it happen.

"We do lots of asking," Kohler said, to explain what inspired the changes. The library's methods include student surveys, an influential Student Library Advisory Council (SLAC), suggestion boxes and a new online feedback system. Whatever the method chosen, the library is listening.

Number one want? More power. When students returned to campus this fall, there were 1,100 more power outlets throughout the library than when they left for the summer. "Students were renting out space on their power strips," Kohler explained. So while budding entrepreneurs may lament, students with low laptop batteries certainly rejoice.

Remodeling Virtual and Real Worlds

This summer Kohler oversaw a vibrant remodel of the atrium. Thanks to a generous gift from Peter Booth Wiley, a founding member of the Library Leadership Council, the library's green space has been transformed. Within minutes of installing new, bright outdoor furniture, students were reclining and reading with their shoes off. When photos were posted to the library's Facebook page, students took time from their summer break to show their enthusiastic approval. There are now 64 additional outdoor seats in the balconies and atrium, along with budding landscaping.

Talking to Kohler, it is clear he loves all the different aspects of his job. He works to create digital services that are intangible and also to reshape the library in "concrete ways that you can see and touch at the end of the day." Recently, Kohler's efforts were recognized with a 2011 Student Affairs Staff Award.

Maps to Media

There are also big changes underway on the first floor. A new Data Studio is being constructed, giving students a collaborative space to interpret large data sets. Should they need to compare Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data of watershed areas past and present, for example, they will be able to do so on four large flat-panel displays.

"There is no other place on campus where students can look at data like this," said Kohler. There will also be space for additional computers, instruction, and glass windows through which you can witness it all.

Collaborative to Quiet

The higher up you go in Kennedy Library, the quieter it gets though not everyone realizes that the library offers both collaborative and quiet space. "Librarians have been shushed by students," said Kohler.

On the third floor, graduate students have benefited from a collaborative room for some time, recently updated with popular beanbag seating, computers and whiteboards. This year, there is a new space on the fourth floor for graduate students to study quietly. Inside the quiet room visitors will find soft seating as well as additional computers, mobile whiteboards and individual desks.

Susan Opava-Stitzer, dean of research and graduate programs, had a hand in creating and updating both of the graduate library spaces. In addition, she recommended offering both fixed and mobile lockers to graduate students. Look for students wheeling "mobies" down the halls next time you're here.

Listen and Support

It has been another busy year for everyone at the Robert E. Kennedy Library. For Kohler, it has been rewarding to be part of a creative partnership between the library, Cal Poly students, and our generous friends and supporters. "Because of their support, we've been able to get back to students and say, 'Here are the changes you asked for,'" said Kohler.

» Stay in touch with us on Facebook to hear about our ongoing student-inspired changes.
» Watch a 60 second interview with Kohler.

Introducing Beth Brenner

In September 2011, Beth Brenner, director of corporate and foundation relations for Cal Poly, began fundraising on behalf of Information Services (Library and IT Services), working closely with Vice Provost and CIO Michael D. Miller.

» To support the Robert E. Kennedy Library, please vist Cal Poly Giving.