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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chronicle of Higher Education piece on academic library design

Just in time for our discussion of library architecture and social relations tomorrow comes this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Thoughtful Design Keeps New Libraries Relevant:

The Internet brought predictions of the demise of the library and, on some campuses, the marginalization of librarians themselves. But now librarians increasingly find that administrators, professors, and students see the library building as essential, a romanticized heart of the campus. At the same time, though, libraries have changed radically from the stodgy and stuffy repositories of years past. Some people wonder whether libraries have loosened up too much, and what libraries will look like in the future.

Unlike most Chronicle articles, this one is free to view at the link above. One particular tidbit describes a recent study on library use correlated with library space:

After his library opened at Penn State Harrisburg, Hal Shill was interested in finding and ranking the features that brought people in. He and Shawn C. Tonner, director of the library at Reinhardt College, in Waleska, Ga., sent survey forms to fellow library directors, asking them about various aspects of their buildings and to rate how those aspects affected library use.

The responses from about 180 institutions revealed surprising patterns. For example, Mr. Shill found that the location of a library on a campus made little difference in its popularity among students. Library size did not matter, nor did the number of study rooms in a building or the availability of wireless access. "The presence of a cybercafe -- that was a wash," he says. "It was not a statistically significant feature, but I would recommend it as a creature comfort."

More basic comforts rated highly: the quality of natural lighting, the quality of work spaces, the quality of the heating and air-conditioning system, and the overall ambiance of the building. Computer and Internet access -- such as the number of data ports, the quality of the telecommunication system, and the quality of the public-access workstations -- were also vital to the success of a building.


His report had a salient point: If a library is deserted, it's not necessarily because the Internet has taken over. It's more likely, he says, that the building itself is outdated, poorly lit, underfinanced, and depressing -- say, a 1960s relic that is less attractive than another place to study, like a friend's house or a local coffee shop. It could be that the library has not added amenities like data ports, group-study areas, and casual learning spaces to accommodate the way students work today.

Any thoughts from the class?


Blogger bundy said...

It is a fear shared by many that libraries will eventually give way to coffe shops, bookstores and cyber cafes. I would like to see a study based on surveys of users asking why they choose to go to the library or other location based on need. For instance, I'm sure that our students go to both state street locations and various libraries around campus in a non-exclusive way. Sometimes they choose to go to state street sometimes they choose to go to College or Memorial library. The fear of library neglect/decline of use was very on the rise as more and more students started arriving on campus with laptop computers. This was further compounded with the availability of WiFI access points. However, library usage is a strong as ever with increased demand for more services.

8:31 PM  

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