Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Hubs Galore - Finding Our Center
I remember some of the questions of my colleagues when the coffee shop was added to the Trinity library (photo above is a skyward view of the library entry portal). This addition would make the library a hub of campus life. Wait a minute, some wondered, isn't the Coates University Center the hub of campus life? (Their Web page says it is one of them.)
Well, it seems one campus cannot have too many hubs. And since Java City arrived, the hub-bub about what is the true soul of the campus has escalated tremendously. So the questions are: What makes a hub? How many hubs do we actually have? And can one place have an unhealthy hub glut?
Consider this my own take on the hub issue.
What makes a hub?
First, I think people need to go to your venue. If they don't go, you can call it a hub all you want... but it isn't one. I can say I look like Brad Pitt all I want, but I still look like David Brenner. Second, a hub's gotta have food. And third, others must recognize your hub as hub-worthy. It's kind of like when people like your shirt and tell you. Then you know you have a good shirt. Same with a hub. So let's look at Java City, the coffee shop in the library. People loved the coffee shop, so the library did become a hub, and in truth, it didn't siphon too many people away from the University Center. Of course it IS possible that the excellent technological applications and the tremendous collections have made the library a hub. Just kidding.
How many hubs do we have?
Well, there are some who think the Bell Athletic Center is a hub. In addition to athletic facilities, it also has ping-pong and showers (no relation). Table tennis does not make a hub though (see above), so I think the Bell Center isn't truly a hub. I know the faculty and administration are excited about the new The Center for the Science and Innovation. They have included a cafe in the design because they think this will not just be a laboratory, but that people will want to hang out there all the time. This definitely has hub potential with or without the Cafe. The Coates Center has food and mailboxes. Hub.
I have my own hub going, and that is Mabee Hall. This wasn't even my idea originally, but I am now taking credit for it. Mabee will be THE lower campus late-night residential hub of campus. It will be open as a gathering place for students into the early morning hours and the new convenience store/grill will draw people in to either study, hang-out, or just get a snack. This hub will have no excellent technological applications and tremendous book and periodical collections It will have some kind of shake machine that cleans itself, however. And there is even tentative talk of a new campus Welcome Center, that could serve as - you got it - a hub for campus visitors.
Of course there are the wanna-be hubs - the Tower for one, Coach Paul McGinlay's soccer empire for another, the Trinity pool, and the Magic Stones.
Can one place have too many hubs?
Can a campus our size have too many places for people to gather and interact? Can there be so many places that each hub of activity loses its hub aura? Hubs are moving targets. a student can spend an hour in the Coates Center, two hours at the library, plenty of time in the new Science facility and wrap up his or her night in Mabee. Or spend a week in one place and the next in another. We aren't New York City after all.
Our product is learning and our strength is engagement, between faculty and each other, students and each other, and staff and each other. Then, add to it places where students and faculty, faculty and staff, and students and staff can come together. Wow: We are in hub heaven. The better and more plentiful the space, the better the engagement, the better the learning, and the better the social environment.