Don't expect to find a lot of books at the Undergraduate Library's new Media Commons area.
At the commons, you write your own story and then bring it to life through audio or video.
The area, which encompasses what once was a 12,000-square-foot study area, has been completely revamped to offer all forms of do-it-yourself audio and video services. New workspaces with plenty of outlets have been added, as have high-tech collaboration and presentation spaces.
Anyone on campus can become an instant video impresario, with the library offering cabinets full of accessory kits that can be checked out, including one that makes a smartphone a portable video camera. For larger recording projects, campus members can reserve the generously equipped video production studio - complete with a "green screen" - or a state-of-the-art audio booth.
"The first question I get is usually, 'How much does this cost to use?' " said Eric Kurt, the Media Commons coordinator. "I know it sounds too good to be true, but we're here (at no cost) for anyone with a valid campus iCard."
The commons was opened in the spring semester as an answer to the ever-growing demand for multimedia classroom presentations. But it also is envisioned as serving the nonstudent population, such as in the preparation of departmental videos or other outreach projects.
"We really don't have a specific demographic in mind," he said. "We just want it to be used by anyone who needs it."
In addition to the specialized "loanable technology," which includes digital and 3-D video equipment, the commons has developed a partnership with CITES (Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services) to staff a full-time four-person help desk to assist anyone with multimedia creation and editing. With some planning, Kurt said consultants can provide assistance on projects and answer digital media questions.
"We didn't just want to throw all of this out there, say we spent money on all of this technology - and now 'good luck,' " he said. "We wanted to be able to answer questions and help facilitate the process."
As for the video production studio, he said the controls will be set up for easy operation, though users with higher-level video skills can set their own operational parameters.
"We'll ask a lot of questions early on and can even assist setting up the space for them," he said. "The idea is to offer the accessibility but retain the versatility."
The audio booth, which was donated following renovations at the Beckman Institute, blocks out about 95 percent of outside sound and is large enough for a small band.
"Before Beckman's gift, we were literally talking about putting up sound blankets in small study rooms," he said.
Kurt said the academic advantages in having the commons are numerous. More courses are requiring media content - meaning the commons can be a nexus for students and professors to develop presentations. He said commons staff members also are able to advise departments on technology purchases and whether the library already has the resources to accommodate their classroom needs.
"We hope it will help reduce the need to purchase equipment and then having it sit unused in a cabinet somewhere," he said.
Kurt said he also looks forward to any new directions students may be inspired to take thanks to the commons' services.
"This is equipment that they may not get that much access to in the real world,' " he said. "We hope they see it as an opportunity to experiment and we want them to be able to show off their work."
Despite the added work spaces, the library still has retained the laid-back feel of the old study area.
There is a presentation area for digital media artists ready to share their work with the general public, high-end computers for video playback, a multiplayer game playing and testing area, and several collaboration tables where entire groups can link up by computer. DVDs and gaming equipment can be checked out at the front desk.
The atmosphere is still relaxed, but there may be a little more academic intent in some of the conversations than there had been in the past.
"The students are here anyway, it was just a matter of, 'What else can we provide?' " he said.
Kurt said work on the commons will continue through the summer and that new furniture and technology will be added.