Friday, November 03, 2006

Library Trading Spaces

In a previous post I discussed how the physical space in libraries may be seen by some as being more valuable then information resources that it houses.

The motivation for this thread was a discussion about the possible creation of a "Digital Library Task Force" which was suggested by senior leadership outside of the library. The idea may have been motivated by the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources SEQ2 Library Vision: The Information Collaboratory report was uncovered. This report states that in creating their new School of Engineering Center building that Stanford is "aiming for a bookless library " and that "eventually, the book collection will disappear altogether, the space that it occupied being re-configured for more study space, more collaborative spaces and perhaps more spaces for consultation. "

If I were in such a senior leadership position and walked into the library after reading the report I would probably see the stacks as dead space as well.

While we are approaching this as a great opportunity to educate our leadership, the reality is that we still need to look at our space in an effort to at least make the stacks less visible. We are not alone on this issue:

- During the summer of 2005 the University of Texas the word "library" was removed from the undergraduate library and the facility converted into the Flawn Academic Center. Almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes were dispersed to other university collections to clear for a 24-hour electronic information commons.

- A similar event occurred at the University of Tennessee when their serials rooms were converted into The Commons.

- On October 10th, 2006 the Mills Library at McMaster University opened a new Learning Commons. The Mills Learning Commons Project is the result of a partnership between the University Library, the Center for Leadership in Learning, the Center for Student Development, and University Technology Services.

While the Commons is the current trend in space reallocation, what else should libraries do with their space?

The July 11, 2006, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education contains an article by Scott Carlson entitled "Campus Planners Have a Tech-Savvy Generation's Needs to Consider"(account required to access) it discusses students' preference for casual and active study space, the use of increasingly smaller electronic devices, and the importance of 'sanctuaries' and 'transitional space'. Some spaces should be flexible, with movable furniture that allows students to spread out. There should be ample space for writing and working.

Our library currently has 6 small study rooms that seat up to 6 comfortably. These are very heavily used. I have suggested doubling the number of these spaces. They do not have to be walled in as they are now, but partioned in a way that creates small rooms within a room. By not putting up walls the space can remain flexible.

I sure our library is not the only one where students drag (and occationally break) furniture into interesting arrangements. Our staff then drags the furniture back (hopefully not breaking it more) to more formal arrangements. Instead of waging a rearrangements war we should be looking at the arrangements they are creating. We should then build more spaces and purchase furniture that actually encourages rearrangement.

We also need to be looking within the our academic communities for potential tenants. In our case, we see great potential in having Educational Student Services housed in our facility. We also need to create new spaces that connect library resources/services with teaching and academic spaces.

So, what is your library doing with it's space? Sphere: Related Content

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