Exactly 5 years ago today, on Easter Tuesday, the Information Commons opened its doors to students for the first time. What I like to think of as the love child of CiCS and the Library had been a long time in gestation. I think the idea had first been floated in 1999, as a solution to a common problem that we both faced, a lack of study spaces. We also knew that we lacked an integrated learning environment, somewhere where students could use books, electronic resources and PCs at the same time.
Once the idea had been born, we had to find a location, and the funding for it. Several locations were initially discussed, before the preferred option of where it is now was settled on. Funding was something we fought hard for, and its fair to say that although we had a lot of support from the students, and our colleagues in professional services, the academic community were not entirely on board at the beginning. But operating on the Tinkerbell Principle (if you can get enough people to believe in something it will eventually happen), we successfully argued our case through Finance Committee and Council and the LRC (Learning Resource Centre) reached planning stage. We had a minor setback well into planning - funding was withdrawn whilst the University carried out a review of other options including building a smaller IC and using the cash to build a number of smaller ones dotted around campus. Luckily common sense prevailed, and we were off again, albeit with a smaller, L shaped building that would wrap around what was at that time the Careers building. During planning two additional amounts of funding were received which allowed us to demolish Careers, add floors 5 and 6, and build phase 2.
It was so exciting watching the building go up. Here are two time lapse videos of it, from web cams we installed. You can see in the second one how the building originally was smaller than it is now, and how close it was going to be to Careers.
The building as handed over to us at 5pm on the Thursday of Easter weekend, and we knew we had just 4 days to get it open for 10am on the Tuesday. It's fair to say a lot of hard work went on. Everyone mucked in, and very long days were worked. Books had to be shelved - the Librarian did his share, and brought his marigolds to help with the cleaning. 400 PCs had to have their installation completed, and I recall lying under desks for hours. But, we got it open, and it's been a runaway success ever since. Some things have changed - we now have a creative media suite in it for example - but the basic premise that it is an integrated learning environment, where students can find many different types of study space, and it is for them, hasn't changed.
Here's some pictures taken exactly 5 years ago.