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UTSA accepted the Tier One challenge in 2009 when the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board earmarked UTSA and six other institutions as viable for Tier One status.

That same year, Dr. Krisellen Maloney, who previously served as an associate university librarian for digital services and technology planning at Georgetown University, became UTSA’s dean of libraries. In her first five years at UTSA, Dr. Maloney has pursued a tier-one agenda.

UTSA’s new students may not know that the John Peace Library was a construction zone last year. Now that the last hard hat has left the building, students can enjoy the renovated second floor of the JPL.

The pearl of the renovations is the GroupSpot study space, a state-of-the-art facility aimed to stimulate interactivity between students. The space holds 20 tables, each table is equipped with five laptops and a 46-inch monitor — an ideal set-up for group collaboration. GroupSpot is a component of Dr. Maloney’s vision to shape the atmosphere of UTSA’s libraries into a sociable, wired experience.

For example, the clusters of comfy chairs all over the JPL aren’t there by chance; they fit into Dr. Maloney’s design, which emphasizes communal space. The renovations in the library correspond to recent trends higher education that emphasize student collaboration to improve retention rates and critical thinking skills.

The Guardian news website summarizes an educational study on group learning from the Institute of Education at London University saying that, “Pupils became more focused on their work, and the amount of thoughtful discussion between children more than doubled in many classes.”

Keeping in line with the trend of socially focused libraries, Dr. Maloney helped create the Blue Crew. “Ask us anything,” they say — but who is “they?”

The Blue Crew is a team of UTSA librarians who are stationed throughout the JPL. The Blue Crew system allows students, both on and off campus, to ask the librarians questions without returning to the help desk. Since the program’s inception, there has been a 300 percent increase in inquiries. Because of the success of the Blue Crew, the UTSA library system was awarded the John Cotton Dana Award, which recognizes libraries for their superior public relations efforts.

In addition to Dr. Maloney’s initiative to create a more interactive learning environment, she has led the university in its transition from a book and print-focused library system to a technology-focused one. In fact, UTSA’s Applied Engineering and Technology Library is the nation’s first bookless college library.

While shelves of the JPL can hold approximately 750,000 books, UTSA’s online library includes 3,008,140 e-books.

Dean Maloney has done more than bring national recognition to UTSA — she has served as one of the leaders of a fundamental shift in the management of collegiate libraries.

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