Conference Report – Space 2.0: Small-Scale Library Redesign Projects

Submitted by Brenda Ellis

Space 2.0: Small-Scale Library Redesign Projects
October 3rd Dartmouth Conference, 2008-10-09

Attendees: Brenda Ellis, Carrie Macfarlane (presenter), Brendan Owens (co-presenter), Joy Pile, Jean Simmons, Elin Waagen, Joseph Watson

Carrie & Brendan’s presentation:

All other presentations available at :

Elin’s notes are on the circulation blog:

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

Comfortable furniture

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

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