Creating in a Vibrant Space: Jones Media Center at Dartmouth College

Students and young professionals consume social and entertainment media in immense doses and at a constant rate. Many colleges, like Dartmouth College, are capitalizing on the strengths and interests of their students by incorporating media into their daily lives at an academic level, tapping into both their fascination with digital culture and their rapidly evolving media skills.

An Abundance of Amenities

At the Dartmouth College Library, students have the ability to access an abundance of media amenities via the Jones Media Center. This center is an innovative-and recently renovated-hub that allows anyone on campus, including faculty and alumni, to indulge in a vast array of media production equipment, software, hardware, and various workstations catering to different needs.

For instance, Anthony Helm, the Head of Digital Media and Library Technologies, notes that medical students will take advantage of these quiet spaces for studying and writing early in the morning. Other areas are designed to promote cooperation and collaborative efforts among professors and students, as well as offer space for the work involved in student-run projects with multiple participants.

An Expansive List of Attractions

The list of attractions and technological tools Jones Media Center has to offer is as diverse as it is expansive. These tools include anything from cameras and editing software, to workshops, to instructions on how to design an inventive and dynamic presentation.

According to Helm, these workshops and spaces are used by a wide array of Dartmouth’s community. This is including, but not limited to, current students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Additionally, they opened their doors to fellow academics when the Innovation Studios hosted the New England Code4Lib Conference in December of 2015.

Along with offering outstanding academic accommodations, Dartmouth also offers opportunities for students to enjoy library-sponsored, recreational stress-relievers, such as television series, table-top games, and films; in fact, there are also special rooms students can reserve to view these films. Providing a recreation area in the media center highlights the college’s vested interest in their students’ mental health and well-being.

Growth and Transformation

Dartmouth’s Jones Media Center first opened in 2001, and it has grown to accommodate each new generation of students, adapting to their needs. In its early days, the center focused on microform and VHS viewing. Considering some incoming freshman in 2017 would be incapable of distinguishing a VHS from a Walkman, advances in time and technology brought about tremendous change.

The traditional computer lab was transformed into a place that put forth a much greater emphasis on supporting multi-media creations and non-linear editing software. The adaptations to the center have been steady over the years and handled quickly when students’ needs changed. Most recently, a need for modernizations was recognized, and Dartmouth responded by creating a space that truly facilitated faculty and student collaboration as well as developing a more pleasant viewing area for patrons.

Four Areas Worthy of Accolades

Four of the areas in the Jones Media Center that deserve accolades are the Innovative Studio, the Collaborative Rooms, the Living Room, and the Digital Media Lab. Helm states the crowning gem of the recent renovations to the media center is the Innovation Studio. He shares, “The space has accordion-fold glass walls, a 3-rail curtain, a lighting grid and an 8-screen video wall, and transforms from classroom, to studio, to presentation space depending on need,” and all of these aforementioned possibilities have indeed been utilized to the fullest.

This space is most commonly reserved for presentations, though students and faculty have also been creative in utilizing the space. Helm explains, “It has been used as a large presentation space, primarily during library employee candidate presentations; by small student groups filming videos for course media assignments; by faculty inviting guest lecturers to class via videoconferencing; by library staff offering workshops on multimedia applications; by teaching librarians working with faculty and classes on library instruction; by a student photographer shooting portraits; by faculty and co-curricular educators video recording lecture content for courses; and by faculty hosting final course presentations of multimedia content or mixed-media performances.”

Though there are multiple technologies devoted to media and film, the Jones Media Center is not merely focused on catering to students with majors in these fields. In fact, the use of media tends to span the majors; Helm mentioned everything from psychology to geography to economics to women’s studies.

In other words, students across the disciplines are taking full advantage of Jones Media Center. The workshops that tend to be the most popular among faculty and students seem to be Photoshop, Illustrator, iMovie and Final Cut Pro. That said, there has also been a growing interest in classes on how to best utilize the digital equipment, such as the cameras. Additionally, the center plans on offering workshops on audio recording and studio lighting in the near future.

Additionally, many successful projects have developed as a result of the Jones Media Center. Susan Simon, the Media Learning Technologist, provided two excellent examples of applications and operations by students. First, one class has a project that requires students to work intimately with a local non-profit and film their experiences. This project capitalizes on many different techniques.

Simon explains, “Students not only learn about the organization itself and its impact on the environment, but they learn how to conduct on-camera interviews, formulate good questions, improve their active not passive listening skills, time management and how to ethically represent people and places through the power of media.” Similarly, in Sociology of Family, students are trained by an oral history archivist, Caitlin Birch, and “learn proper interview techniques, how to use audio and video editing software, and learn how to use WordPress, which is Dartmouth’s blog software.”

Consumption and Self-Expression

Media is a force that has become all-encompassing in recent years, and there is no reason to doubt its staying power. As a whole, our society seems to crave and indulge in regular media exposure-not just as a means of consumption, but also as an avenue for self-expression.

Professors and students benefit by having both the means and ability to create in a vibrant, tangible platform. The Jones Media Center at Dartmouth College is an excellent example of turning commodities into necessities, while taking advantage of the innate interests and skills of the student population.

About the Author
Cassidy Clevenger is a Samford University alum. After earning her BA in Psychology, she studied Gerontology at Georgia State, and is back at Samford finishing her MSW while working as a staff writer for PUPN Magazine.