Parks Library opens a new collaborative workspace


Jacob Rice

The Catalyst is full of colorful seating, potted plants, whiteboards, study rooms and large windows. Feb. 8.

The Catalyst is a new collaborative workspace in Parks Library that is geared towards digital scholarship, research data and publication services. It opened in the spring 2023 semester and includes a 3D printer and scanner, modular furniture and digital displays.

This new workspace is located on the first floor of the library in room 199. It sits past Bookends Cafe and to the right of the huge hallway towards the older end of the building.

A large sign above the walkway that reads “The Catalyst” will direct students to know they are in the right place to begin their next academic escapade.

The Catalyst is located at Parks Library in room 199. Feb. 8. (Jacob Rice)

Immediately after stepping foot in the room, visitors can see a variety of colors sprinkled around that stray from the typical cardinal and gold that is seen in many other campus areas. The area also features bright lights that beam in from various windows which bend all the way around the room.

“[The Catalyst] is a hybrid workspace for library staff and the ISU community to come and work with us, especially on digital projects,” said Megan O’Donnell, Iowa State’s university library’s data services librarian. “We have three different staff units represented, digital scholarships and initiatives, research data services and the digital press.”

Throughout the room, there are several places where students can come in and work. Several tables are high and low, a computer area and couches to lounge on decorate the space. There are also two collaboration rooms specifically designed for conversing.

These collaborative rooms do not have walls that go all the way up to the ceiling, so students around can hear people communicating with each other.

The Catalyst has two private study rooms outfitted with whiteboards, large tables and couches. Feb. 8. (Jacob Rice)

Hearing people talk is intended to make the area less quiet to influence people to talk with one another. The Catalyst’s project leads hope a talkative environment will encourage the formation of new ideas.

“I never knew that this place existed if I’m being honest,” Rachel Pokorski, a freshman studying meteorology, said. “I’ve never even heard of it or knew where to look for it, but now that I know where it is this is an area that I can definitely see myself coming to work on homework or to meet up with friends.”

The Catalyst’s project leads gave the space its name with its intended purpose in mind.

“We wanted to convey that there is a network of things that happen,” Hannah Scates Kettler, an Iowa State librarian, said. “It’s very rare that you just have one person doing all of [the work] individually…Teamwork, team dynamics, the networking is what we tried to load into the name.”

The project to create The Catalyst was launched following a university-wide survey in fall 2019. The survey revealed a need for research data training and collaborative experiential learning spaces. It was made possible by a $225,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust of Muscatine, Iowa.