Information Commons Ribbon Cutting

The books are back home!

If you have yet to visit the Ambler Library or the Ambler Campus IT Services Help Desk this semester, now is a great time to do so as they've combined to form a new collaborative space in the Ambler Learning Center — the Information Commons.

Some exciting changes have come to the Ambler Library and Information Technology Services, including new compact/moveable library shelves, new furniture and new layout for the collaborative space and the return of a significant portion of the Ambler Campus book collection from the Charles Library where they were housed, and remained available for use, after the 2021 tornado.

According to Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Director of Temple University Ambler and Vice Provost for University College, the Information Commons is a shared space that "allows for more library materials to be available to students."

"It also allows us to offer students a more integrated, beneficial model of our services. It provides a dynamic space on campus for learning, study and collaboration," she said. "We've reduced the number of fixed desktops and added comfortable, moveable furniture that will allow for more student collaboration following in the model of the TECH Center at Main Campus." 

According to Reid Overturf, Director of Information Technology Services at Temple Ambler, the Information Commons is a space "where you can get information and assistance in both digital and print formats in a variety of ways."

"We have new computers available, which have software that supports all programs. The new furniture looks great and is designed for collaboration — you can move a lot of it and position it in ways that are more conducive to working together as a group," he said. "We also have a laptop and battery loaner kiosk, which is helpful in supporting group projects or study sessions. We also continue to offer a diversity of output and scanning capabilities, such as both wide-format  plotting and scanning, 3-D and black and white and color printing."

As part of the Information Commons renovations, the Library welcomed 11 units of compact, mobile shelving — nine of which are moving carriages, which together provided the space for 30,000 books in Temple Ambler's Library collection to return to campus in addition to the more than 5,000 books that were already in the library post-tornado, according to Sandi Thompson, Head of the Ambler Campus Library.

"Many of the books we have on hand right now support the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture programs (offered by the Tyler School of Art and Architecture). That is in addition to our leisure reading and children and young adult sections and books supporting history, literature and other areas of study," she said. "We have added individual workspaces in addition to the collaborative spaces. Of course, we continue to provide service at the service desk, consultations with students and instructional support with faculty members and we are here to assist with intra-campus and interlibrary loan for anyone in the campus community and our surrounding communities — the Library's resources are available to the public."

There is also a new way to check out books from the Information Commons, Thompson said.

"We have a new self-checkout system called 'Meescan.' If someone comes in after library staff have left for the day, it allows students, faculty or staff to use call numbers to find a book and check it out using the machine," she said. "There is also a phone app — Meescan Temple (downloadable from the Apple and Android app stores) — which is even faster than the kiosk."

To find the book they are seeking, visitors can visit and search under the "Books & Media" tab, where they can find the book's call number and location in the stacks.

The Information Commons and the ITS Help Desk are open from Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Ambler Library has librarians on staff from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

Overturf said the new shared space "is a true collaboration" between Library and Information Technology Services staff.

"The activity in the Information Commons has definitely increased," he said. "The space is much more conducive to having students work with each other and use the resources that we offer."

The shared space also allows for outside-the-box uses, he said. For example, students in a course taught by Kathy Salisbury, Ambler Arboretum Director and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Tyler School of Art and Architecture Horticulture program, have livened up the Commons with plants from one of their course labs.

The Ambler Campus Library, and in turn the Information Commons, does not follow the "study silently quiet vibe" of a typical Library, according to Thompson.

"I told Reid that one of the things that we do a little differently is that we are not silent — that is not the kind of library we are," she said. "We all get along and we enjoy ourselves while ensuring that everyone has access to the resources and support they need."

The Information Commons also has its own Ferris Wheel. Created from a toy building set, the Ferris Wheel was an icon in the former library building. It withstood the ferocity of the tornado and found a new home in the shared space.

"It was still standing after the tornado, which was really an emotional moment for all of us, but it was missing some pieces. Reid was so taken with the Ferris Wheel that he bought replacements for the missing pieces," Thompson said. "In turn, (Bibliographic Assistant) Darryl Sanford gifted Reid with a set of people for the Ferris Wheel. Now it's an icon for the Information Commons — it's become a symbol of our continued resilience."

The brightly colored wheel is not alone. Peppered about the leisure reading area is part of a menagerie of owls of all shapes and sizes that Thompson has collected over the years with more in her office, giving the Information Commons a feel uniquely its own.

"I think we've created a very welcoming space. We want students, faculty, staff and researchers to know that if they need help, we are here to provide it, whether it is hardware, software or information research," she said. "Everyone has direct access to librarians, which I think is extremely important. With a person to provide assistance and guidance for an area of study or research needs, the library system becomes much easier to navigate."