Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Library Spaces.

with 6 comments

Last week I had the opportunity to view one of the College of DuPage Teleconferences titled Library Spaces: Future Needs. The presentation was a part of the Library Challenges & Opportunities 2008 series, and offered a lot of good advice (and examples) of changing needs in public and academic libraries. A couple of main concepts that I took away are discussed below.

Zones – The architects featured in the teleconference (Elisabeth Martin and Jeffrey Hoover) specialize in library design and planning. They introduced the new (to me) idea of “zoning” your library based on the different types of spaces/services that are provided. Some of the zones could include a welcome area, the living room zone (the heart of the library, where information is being used via computers, collaborative seating, couches, etc), the information commons (where users are seeking information and assistance), the youth zone (in public libraries), programming (auditoriums, conference rooms, instructional spaces), administrative/support services (office areas) and a civic zone (courtyards, garden, paths and walkways). They showed a variety of library floor plans where they had zoned using different colors, and it was very interesting to see “the big picture” in terms of locations. I would actually like to do this (just out of curiosity) with the floor plans of RIT Libraries. Hmm… perhaps I will.

Technologies – What library-related conversation would be complete without a discussion of new technology?? Not a one. We learned about Helsinki City Library’s “Information Gas Station” (iGS), a mobile reference service unit (the Information Barrel), that users can visit at malls or at different locations. Another concept was the use of ATM technology at self-checkout stations for users to pay fines on the spot. Collapsible shelving as well as retractable bleacher systems were also mentioned.

A common thread throughout the teleconference was providing opportunities for collaboration and flexibility. This can be accomplished by taking into consideration future space needs and changing services. Although we may not be able to predict the future, we can take steps like utilizing reconfigurable furniture, looking for success in other industries (merchandising the collection similar to bookstore displays, having a concierge-like presence in the welcome zone), remembering that the reference desk is usually a barrier and weighing the use of lighting and features that add to ambiance with space used for the collection (although library real estate is valuable, there must be a balance). We can also remember that users tend to gravitate toward the perimeter of the room rather than the core (necessitating seating there), to give every seat access to two outlets and provide visually connected spaces as well as quiet, private spaces.

The speakers advocated for a library “self-examination”. One of my favorite parts was when they showed two diagrams I have crudely recreated below:


The lines represent the collection and the dots represent users. In the older model, the collection was at the center. In the new model, the resources in the collection are centered around the user. I think this way of thinking can be applied not only to the physical arrangement of a library, but to the mindset librarians should now be looking towards. Instead of simply coming here to use our resources, patrons are coming here to gather with others, to seek assistance, and access resources specific to their need. The collection is no longer the biggest draw (for student users at least). Books are no longer the magnets for libraries, we must aspire to provide other services including a neutral, safe space, points of access, and offering customized and personal assistance based on our users’ needs.


Written by Erin Dorney

March 10, 2008 at 10:05 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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6 Responses

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  1. When I was living in Liverpool our university had self check out machines at which you could also pay late fees, etc. It was reeeally weird and kind of difficult at first (probably because the British do everything ass backwards haha) but nice to have later at night once the librarians were gone (it was also a 24 hour library).


    March 11, 2008 at 1:58 PM

  2. Maybe libraries should offer the amenities found in all the big box bookstores-space where people can mingle, talk quietly, browse books and magazines, and have a cup of whatever.


    March 13, 2008 at 3:31 PM

  3. May libraries already do offer those things. That is exactly what we offer here at RIT for example. However, it’s just not arranged in a way that’s conducive to mingling. We’re missing that “bookstore” aura. Thats why we have to think about how we can rearrange our space to make patrons (students) more comfortable and apt to enjoy our services/spaces.


    March 13, 2008 at 4:18 PM

  4. It’s the “Unlibrary”-everything you thought a library couldn’t be but is. Recliners and comfortable couches, Nice lamps right over your shoulder. Popcorn machines and dunkin donuts (no starbucks allowed). Library patrons are like fish-ya just gotta bait the hook a little and meet em halfway.


    March 13, 2008 at 11:08 PM

  5. Oh, but it should be this way. Erin, have you ever visited Geneseo’s library? I found it pretty awesome as far as information commons and zoning go (and much else!). If you haven’t been there (recently), you definitely should check it out. 🙂


    March 14, 2008 at 1:21 AM

  6. Hi Melissa! I have not seen the Geneseo library. I would love to visit it someday! What kinds of stuff do they have there that we might be able to incorporate into RIT?


    March 14, 2008 at 3:43 PM

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