Space 2.0 Small-Scale Library Redesign Projects
Small-Scale Library Redesign Projects
Friday, October 3, 2008
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Summary notes – Lessons learned and questions raised; comments etc. in undertaking small scale space change projects:
Great presentation by Midd’s own Carrie Macfarlane and Brendan Owens on the post-it note feed-back bullet boards!
Keep it user-centric and user driven – what do our users want?
Students are digital users; are always connected
Environment is constantly changing
Opportunities don’t always seem like one at first glance
Align project with college vision and core values
Identify and collaborate with campus partners and stakeholders who share common values
Lay groundwork for administrative support
Foster inclusive planning
Seek other views
Hold on to the vision but be flexible
Communicate progress and developments consistently and regularly
Include as many other services as possible in the library
Watch the traffic flow and patterns when planning new spaces
Keep sight lines in mind
Space is transitional
There is no perfect plan
Factor in emotional connection to work spaces
Glass doors and walls welcoming – and minimize noise, encourages privacy and “change to quieter environment” message in open spaces
Consider off-site storage of low-use collections
Design for flexibility and change; furniture on wheels; options for flexible configurations by user
Take care in re-use of existing furniture in new spaces
User-centric planning critical to success
Assess before, during and after project; continually
If the plan doesn’t work – change the plan!
Working in a construction zone has its benefits and advantages – some opportunity for catching design/construction problems before it’s too late
Opportunity to redesign office space and service functions
Beauty and aesthetics are critical, but flexibility allows for changing needs; evolving user needs
How to ask for more when you already have a fabulous place?
Define goals early on
How to look with fresh eyes at the space; functions
Frequent small immediate displays to increase interaction with and circulation of print collection (Champlain College retains book jackets); Flickr to enhance display
Low flat shelves can be used for displays – as well as opening up the spaces
Low use large service desk – re-used as display area, refreshments table
Set aside misgivings and look again; look with fresh eyes; listen to fresh eyes and user viewpoints
Try something as a “pilot”
Staff training, buy-in, planning opportunities critical when service points/functions change
Watch the kids – read Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
Have a vision
Be polite, but forceful, and persistent – not annoying
Find credible champions
Align with multiple institutional priorities
Call in favors
Build syndicates, collaborations
Plan – even if there is no $ at the moment
Bail plan if not working
Don’t spend too much on temp fixes
Assess, assess, assess – to get info, to be credible, don’t just ask – watch what they do; focus group; ask in the library – and outside the library
Record focus groups for active listening outside of the focus group
Qualitative assessment – create your own stories and institutional narratives
Enlist training to interpret data
How to assess? Ask specific questions; post-its; blog; town meetings; visit library at night
Build the case
Walk with fresh eyes; slide show to document problems (with fresh eyes)
Overlay plans – hands-on tool to demonstrate actual space in library and how used
Importance of flexibility
Relax and let go – food, drink, and commotion OK
Site visit – not just libraries but book stores; good/award public libraries
Displays (TV) on a stick – on wheels
Whiteboard on wheels
Regular team: “Little group that thinks big”
http://www.anthro.com – mobile furniture; mobile work stations
Sustain the vision but keep reasonable expectations
Look for low cost solutions
Hands-on assessment options – vote for the chair; post-it note bulletin board – benefits of students seeing what other students are thinking
Presenter Susan McMullen from Roger Williams University: http://faculty.rwu.edu/smcmullen/
Best practices and interesting insights into other libraries from extensive site visit sabbatical.
Commons at UNC – Charlotte, NC – may be interesting resource for us regarding possible service point discussions/explorations
“On either side of the Information Desk are the Reference Services Desk and the Presentation Support Desk. Further to the far side of the library entrance and close to the Presentation Support Desk is the Circulation Desk. As the center desk, the Information Desk is the largest with strong straight edges. The other service desks located on either side of the Information Desk are curved in toward the center of the area. All desks are in line with one another and are counter height. Some staff wonder if it may have been better to have a single integrated desk or to have moved the Reference and Presentation Support Desks back from the main Information Desk so that the patron is not confused as to which desk to approach first for assistance.”
Full presentations available at
Informal summary of highlights (combined notes from Jean, Brenda, Joy, Joseph, Carrie)
• “Best Practices for Planning, Designing and Servicing New Spaces” – top points
Assess users needs – think about what users will be doing in spaces – what will draw them in. Ask them what they want.
Have a guiding document with agreed upon goals and objectives – i.d. project “shepherds”
Work in phases rather than wait for major funding
stay flexible – design for future change/reconfiguration – use flexible furniture
consider noise levels.
line of sight between service desks (low shelves) – seek input from everyone who staffs a service point.
Get outside buy-in (administrators) and make use of architect consultants (BE suggestion: faculty – maybe input of McLeod’s architecture class)
• “Digital Social Science Center” (Columbia University) – top points
After assessment discovered: More group study space needed; scanning & printing important; need presentation practice space; need to market services better.
Glassed-off areas to create group study/presentation rooms?
The speaker pointed out the challenge of making this underground location seem light and inviting by changing the lighting and furnishings.
• “Rolling White Boards and Good Chairs – Priceless”- top points
Involved the students in the assessment process by having a “chair contest” – sample chairs with clipboards, inviting student
Purchased not just chairs, but Ottomans as well
Whiteboards on wheels – so that groups can create “privacy” spaces
Group workstations with large screen iMACs, with the monitors left on
Table spaces where students can spread out
• “Step by Step: Small Space Improvements in the John Crerar Library” – top points
Moveable furniture – everything on wheels; foldable tables
One room has a partition
Presentation Boards in rooms
Media tree (portable LSD screen) – can attach computer and DVD and bring it anywhere
Formed a team to undertake the planning and included the donor
• “Renovating a 1970’s Library” – top points
Collection study – found decrease in use of current periodicals; gov’t docs; microfilm; reference
Relocated periodicals and added group study tables to area; Reference Room converted to group studies (partioned areas – columns have power/ethernet run down from ceiling; blackboards; LCD panels +Mac adapters)
Students wanted: electrical outlets for laptops; better lighting; more comfortable chairs; group study space
• “Polishing the Diamond” (library at UNH)
Redesigned 2 work areas – a digital scanning lab and the gov docs work area.
Make changes along the way; don’t spend too much on temp fix
Took away public gov’t docs ref desk and turned it into public space and IT support.
• Carrie presented a well-received session about her use of post-it notes to gather student feedback about study spaces
• Janet Cottrell, director, gave a thought provoking presentation about how Champlain College energized [my term] the entrance “walk through” space to draw attention to the book collection.
o She made effective use of overlays, demonstrating true free space availability in her building (transparency showing classrooms not under library control, one showing utility spaces, one showing stack floor print . . .) = Excellent, low-tech demo tool!
o Her theme: look with new eyes at existing practices and spaces
Giant reference desk became at times a display counter—and at other times, a place to serve refreshments
Low shelves were used for displays
Faculty author book talks were held right on the main floor—w/ refreshments and opportunity for folks to mix and share ideas (scheduled so as not to interfere with quieter study times)
Frequent thematic book displays that, because they filled a small space, took on more importance than a small display tucked away in the lobby. (Their library keeps jackets on books until they become shabby)
Display of artwork, as well, now
o Although a causal relationship hasn’t been established, their circ stats have increased noticeably since they began this initiative
o A once empty pass-through space is now often people-filled.
• From the conference overall, the message I came away with was the effectiveness of making small, incremental changes.
o It’s okay to make mistakes, if investment is small
o Don’t plan it to death. Try it out, even if not fully developed
o Work with modular, flexible units, so they can be tried in several areas and/or rearranged.
o If you can’t do it all, at least make a start
Good ideas (seen in photos etc.)
Group study tables with display panels (like we have in group studies – but in more places)
Use carpet and color to make spaces more inviting (see Bridgewater State).
Create smaller rooms within larger ones using glass partitions
Comfortable chairs with ottomans
IMACs with the screen left on to invite users for group projects
Add whiteboards and blackboards. Can buy white boards on wheels.
Different sized tables rooms for dif size groups.
Can create a small group study area in a large room with a pod-like moveable wall
Market your progress
“Little Think Big” group meets regularly to brainstorm on potential changes to library
Check with UNC-Charlotte – has multiple service desks (info; ref; circ; reserves) and are considering consolidating.
One library added “flat wiring under carpets” – what does that mean? Could we add more electric and network without drilling into concrete? Another library brought power down through columns from ceilings
9:00 – 9:15
Welcome Bill Garrity
Director of Biomedical Libraries
Dartmouth College/Dartmouth Medical School and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
Dean of Libraries/Librarian of Dartmouth College
9:15 – 10:00
Sustaining the Vision: Best Practices for Design, Implementation, and Service
Betsy Peck Learned
Interim Dean of University Libraries
Roger Williams University
Reference and Information Resources Librarian
Roger Williams University
Librarians from Roger Williams University developed a model of best practices for planning library space projects while planning the first phase of their Learning Commons. They visited and gathered data from 18 libraries with recently-reconfigured spaces, tapped into their collective wisdom, and distilled it to a list of pragmatic, universally applicable best practices. Using examples from their own project and those of the libraries they visited, they will describe how to lay the groundwork for your plan, incorporate the lessons learned, and achieve buy-in for the project. Learn how you can move your vision forward with limited funding and an abundance of enthusiasm!
10:00-10:45 Information Commons
Updating and Reconfiguring a 1971 Library, One Room at a Time
Head, Access Services and Technical Support
Columbia University Libraries
Columbia’s Lehman Social Sciences Library, located in the University’s International Affairs Building, had not undergone a major renovation since it opened in 1971. In summer 2007 two rooms were reconfigured and updated. Getting to this point included building a relationship with the School of International and Public Affairs, assessing patron use of the spaces and listening to students’ comments and complaints, visiting peer institutions that had recently renovated spaces, and working with an innovative architect.
Rolling White Boards and Good Chairs – Priceless
Reference/Information Commons Librarian
Deputy Director of Libraries
In a building fraught with architectural challenges, Smith College librarians are successfully re-imagining Reference – which they equate with the Information Commons (IC) – to expand the continuum of resources and services on the main floor of Neilson Library. For students, Smith conceived that the IC serve their intellectual, technological, and social needs, and form a flexible environment for changing pedagogy. For staff, the college seeks to strengthen partnerships with other campus service providers and to expand their technological savvy. This presentation will focus on successes that other libraries can easily adopt, the vision for student use versus the reality, and future goals.
11:00 – 11:30
Step by Step: Small Space Improvements in the John Crerar Library
Co-Director Science Libraries Division
University of Chicago Library
The John Crerar Library at the University of Chicago recently created a technology-equipped teaching and learning space. Using a memorial gift, they converted a previously little-used microforms room into a space that can be used for traditional classroom teaching, web-based conferencing, and hands-on learning, and by students working in groups. This project represents what is hoped to be the first step in generally rethinking library space, and implementing step-wise, small-scale improvements that will provide library users with a variety of spaces suited to a variety of needs.
11:30-12:30 Study Spaces
Where Would You Study? Feedback Via Post-It Notes
Reference and Instruction Librarian for the Sciences
Digital Media Intern
Library and Information Services
No matter how small a library redesign project might be, obtaining student feedback is an important part of the planning process. Middlebury asked students to respond to a potential redesign via Post-It notes on a poster in the library. The responses received were plentiful, colorful, and fun. The presenters will share how they developed the poster, what comments were received, and how they followed up.
Digital Social Science Center: an Information Commons for Graduate Social Science Students
Head, Access Services and Technical Support
Columbia University Libraries
Director of the Social Science Libraries
Columbia University Libraries
The Digital Social Science Center (DSSC) is the third in a series of renovations of the Lehman Social Science Library. The design focused on group workspaces with high-end equipment, staff visibility, presentation practice rooms, and custom-designed space for user consultations. The equipment includes 12 workstations with 30-inch monitors, GIS software, and statistical and financial information resources.
Putting the “Quiet” in Quiet Study Space
Dean of Library and Learning Resources
Director of Libraries
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Converting multi-use library space into quiet study can be challenging and expensive. This presentation will discuss how a space-challenged library was able to create quiet study by segregating normal noisier functions (such as computers and reference service) from quieter services by the use of glass walls. The pros and cons of using signage, moving collections, implementing stricter library policies, and creating physical barriers will be discussed.
Polishing the Diamond: Changing Spaces for Enhanced Services to the UNH Community
University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Digital Collections Librarian
University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
In 2007 the UNH Library orchestrated several space redesign projects to enable new services and functions within the Library and adapt to changing academic support needs. These projects included the creation of a digital imaging lab in an unused preservation workroom, and the redesign of the Government Documents Department office to accommodate the transfer of its public service desk to the IT Support Center of the new Dimond Academic Commons. Creativity and flexibility by all participants as well as a shared goal of providing the best possible service to students, faculty, and staff helped meet challenges such as tight deadlines, coordination and communication of information among several units, loss of physical space, and a need for extensive infrastructure work.
Something from Nothing: Bringing New Life to the Library Without New Construction
Director of the Library
In Champlain’s Miller Information Commons, patrons often walked right through the main floor without even pausing as they hurried to get to study rooms, computing labs, classrooms, or other resources. As a result, the main floor — one of the most attractive areas in the building — felt underused. At the same time, the facility lacked space for displays and outreach activities. This combination turned out to be a perfect opportunity to explore low or no-cost ways of showcasing services and resources by bringing them front-and-center, expanding the use of the library’s main floor area without expanding the area itself.
2:15-2:45 Recap: Lessons Learned
3:00-3:30 Meet the Speakers