Chronicle of Higher Education piece on academic library design
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 It's more likely, he says, that the building itself is outdated, poorly lit, underfinanced, and depressing -- say, a 1960s relic that is less attractive than another place to study, like a friend's house or a local coffee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?