Notes on "Designing the 'Unquiet' Academic Library"

Designing the “Unquiet” Academic Library: Meeting Institutional Needs Through Innovative Learning Space
Dr. Debra Gilchrist, Vice President, Learning and Student Success, Pierce College, Lakewood, WA
Christie Flynn, Faculty Librarian, Pierce College, Lakewood, WA
Michael Slater, Principal Architect, McGranahan Architects, Tacoma, WA

  • Pierce College, WA (community college) needed to build a new library
  • Focus on retention & student success
  • Two things needed:
    • Student engagement
    • Leadership for institutional change
  • They wanted students to be active & engaged in the library; facilitation of learning, rather than management of learning
  • They compiled 8 years of assessment data to assist them with the planning of the new building
  • The library was going to grow from 25,000 sq. ft. to 66,000 sq. ft.
  • Student engagement & persistence
    • Active learning
    • Collaboration among students; relationships & interactions with caring adults; feeling connected
    • Quality of experience is function of quality of effort offered by an institution
    • Respect for diverse learning styles
  • Who can the library be & what can their role be in regards to the entirety of the institution?
  • Collaborate / Learn & discover / Shift perspective of what the library means/is
  • The library design process started 1 year before construction began
  • The library director sat in every week at the facilities meeting during the planning & construction phases; she wasn’t invited to attend, but asked if she could & they allowed her to; she says that attending these meetings were vital to the success of the renovation
  • In addition, the chancellor allowed the librarians to be on the team selecting the architect
  • They had 3D modelling, which allowed the stakeholders to envision the space
  • Ceiling panes, colors, and furniture arrangements were the most difficult for them to decide upon
  • They created all new signage & used informative names/verbs for each service point & area of the library:
    • Reference desk was called “Ask”
    • “Borrow”: Circulation
    • “Learn”: Library classrooms
    • “Connect”: This is the most dramatic change; this area is interactive, loud & collaborative
    • “Reflect”: Quiet areas
    • “Design”: Create & edit film; graphic design
    • “Write”: Tutors
  • The spaces are still evolving in the library
  • The building and signs have an intuitive design; there are no signs telling patrons where to be loud or quiet
  • The library contained rolling whiteboards, laptops & desktops
  • The reference statistics doubled after renovation
  • Instruction statistics jumped hugely as well
  • The library placed a large importance on the acoustics (how quiet or loud could specific areas get?)
  • They purchased rolling foot stools, which proved to be very popular amongst the students. These footstools doubled as extra chairs, as well as a place for students to lay their items on.
  • They focused on purchasing furniture on wheels, so that students can decide where/how to sit.
  • The new building contained an abundance of outlets in the floor for laptops & other electronics; outlets were placed app. every 8 sq. ft.
  • Before the renovation, the library’s statistics tended to dip in the afternoon. Since the renovation, this has changed. Even the student’s “in-between” time is being spent in the library.
  • Other areas include a peer review area for faculty, traditional study rooms with whiteboards & TV screens (students can check out markers)
  • The higher floors were built to be quiet; this has been intuitive for the students and they police each other if someone is making too much noise
  • One of the most popular pieces of furniture they purchased were cubes for students to sit & study in. These cubes provided privacy for the students. Contained bench seats & even coat hooks.
  • Faculty in other departments have begun purchasing any software or equipment that the library cannot afford
  • Some tips:
    • Know our philosophical framework before starting. What’s important to us?
    • What does our institution need from the library?
    • Furniture variety is critical!
    • Mediocre is NOT OK; don’t settle
    • Establish trust with the architect & work as a team; the more time you spend with the architect, the better; they will have a better idea of what you want for the library if they get to know you; do lunch together often
  • Furniture recommendation: Jasper Furniture System (high quality, low cost)
  • They had a fundraiser as a “closing party” for the old library:
    • Games to toss old books into trash cans
    • Ride book carts
    • Book bowling
    • Graffiti art on the old library walls
  • Student newspaper did a large spread on the renovation: http://theroundupnews.com/2013/03/10/newly-constructed-library-to-open-after-spring-break/
  • See the following 2 library journal pages for info on this renovation:

 

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