Metropolitan College Computer Lab:
The Commons Area Becomes a Reality
by Rae Helton, Director, Office of Information Literacy
When I joined the University Libraries three years ago, there was a vision for Phase II of the Collaborative Learning Center (CLC). Phase II was envisioned as an open area for accessing electronic information and using word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database software to produce finished products. The commons area outside the CLC would be better than other labs on campus because of the services that would be provided and because it would be located in a wonderful environment – the library! Numerous attempts to receive funding through grants and other local sources proved unsuccessful. However, we never gave up hope. Last year an opportunity came our way. The University became a partner with UPS to form the Metropolitan College. Soon after the partnership was formed, Dr. Dave Howarth, Associate University Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies, began looking for a computer lab location for Metropolitan College students. There just happened to be a space on the first floor of the Ekstrom Library ready for computers and patrons.
The last six months are a blur because planning for the lab occurred at an extremely fast pace. Diane Nichols participated in the planning meetings with Information Technology (IT) and Dr. Howarth. Weiling Liu helped with hardware configuration and software selection. After numerous details were agreed upon, orders placed, and ethernet connections installed, it looked as though the lab would actually become a reality. The official opening date kept changing. One morning shortly after returning from the holiday break, I was greeted by 31 new IBM workstations. One week later the service desk was in place. I learned the lab would officially open to the public on February 1. I had one week to recruit, interview, hire, and hopefully train students to staff the service desk. Kathy Shambo and I quickly determined how many students would be needed and then created a rough desk schedule. I called upon several faculty contacts to help me identify students for the position. The race against time began! We screened applications and interviewed twenty students in record time. Once the students were hired, there was even time for a quick orientation session. The lab officially opened on February 1 at 8:00am.
Having responsibility for the lab is very rewarding. It provides students with a great work area for research and producing projects. More than 4,000 patrons used the lab during March. We have been very fortunate to hire ten talented and professional students to staff the service desk and serve as lab consultants. They are an interesting group. For example, one consultant is one of three generations who now work in the University Libraries, three consultants are in the Honors Program, and another consultant is on the women’s volleyball team. Technical support for the lab is provided by Jack Stewart, IT Computer Lab Supervisor. We have a great relationship with Jack. The fact that he has an MLS from UK has helped because he understands libraries and our service mission. The current success of the lab has depended on teamwork, flexibility, and quick thinking. We’re currently in the process of hiring a graduate assistant to help with the daily operations of the lab and who will serve as supervisor for the lab consultants. Kathy and I have juggled our regular responsibilities and have communicated with the lab consultants mostly using e-mail. Despite the pace and a few surprises every now and then, everything is falling into place. The next time you’re near the lab, stop by for a visit. Listed below is the lab consultants’ view of what it’s like to work in the lab.
A Great Place to Work
by Jill Buchanan, Lab Consultant
Working in the library has several advantages. The advantages attracted many of the lab consultants who work in the Metropolitan College Computer Lab to their positions. I talked to a few of the students to get their impressions on their work in the lab. One of the students that I interviewed was Stephen Sison and he gave the following as the most beneficial reasons. First, the lab is in an ideal location. Second, the work schedules are very flexible. Third, there is a continuous flow of interaction with patrons. Fourth, you get to learn about the programs the library has to offer such as Minerva 2000 and ProQuest. Stephen really enjoys working with the public and made these comments.“For me, there is a great deal of satisfaction in answering questions, helping people learn more about what they want to know, and assisting them with all their needs while they're in the lab."I also talked to another student, Rita Foote, who had these comments. When asked if the opening of the lab had a significant impact on the lives of students she responded, "It provides a place for students to get more help when they need it."If you are looking for a place to work with favorable working conditions and lots of advantages, the Metropolitan College Computer Lab is the ideal place.
An Innovative Approach to Higher Education
by Robin Harris, Law Library
The University of Louisville, Jefferson Community College, Jefferson Technical College (formerly known as Kentucky Tech) and United Parcel Service (UPS) have entered into a partnership to provide students with a tuition-free postsecondary education and a part time job with benefits at UPS. This creative joint venture is known as Metropolitan College, or MC. (MC is NOT to be confused with Metroversity, officially known as The Kentuckiana Metroversity, Inc., a consortium of seven colleges and universities in the Louisville metropolitan area. The schools in the Metroversity are UofL, JCC [both Southwest and Downtown campuses], Spalding University, Bellarmine College, Indiana University Southeast, the Presbyterian Seminary and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. For more information about Kentuckiana Metroversity, point your browser to http://www.spalding.edu/library/metrolib.htm )
MC offers several innovative features in its unique approach to postsecondary education, one of which is flexible scheduling. MC enables students to schedule classes between 5pm and 10pm Monday through Friday, allowing students to customize their class schedules to fit their UPS work schedules. Fall semester classes end before Thanksgiving so that students may finish their course work before the peak holiday season at UPS.
While the scheduling aspects are drawing students to MC, the most attractive feature of MC is its cost. MC is tuition-free. UPS reimburses students for half their tuition at semester's end (if program requirements are met) and MC picks up the other half (if tuition is not already covered by scholarships or grants).
MC currently offers 19 programs, including Automotive Technology (through JTC), Computer Maintenance (through JCC), and Communications (through UofL). Academic counselors work with each student to determine optimal course choices and schedules. MC students may attend part time or full time.
To qualify for admission to MC, students must work at UPS Next Day Air Operations and be a student at UofL, JCC, or Jefferson Technical College. (Next Day Air Operations' shifts begin between 10pm and 4am Monday through Friday and employees start at $8.50/hour. Benefits include annual increases, full health benefits, paid vacation and holidays, a 401K savings plan, and a stock ownership program. Most jobs are in package handling.)
Metropolitan College grew out of the desire to increase the workforce for UPS, a vital part of Louisville's economy. Although still in its early developmental stages, MC has proven successful. The first MC students enrolled during Fall, 1998 and interest in the programs continues to grow.
For more information on Metropolitan College, call the UPS Employment Center at 359-1877 in Louisville, or 1-888-316-3704. Visit the MC web site at http://www.jcc.uky.edu/mc/