Narrative Box 9

4 – Pay attention to seat types and allocation

You can have as many seats in a library as there are undergraduates (although that would be a stretch!) but if the blend of seat types is misaligned with student expectations, they will not be used. A diverse blend of seat types is important. It is equally important to zone and distribute these within the building. A mezzanine should not be all a single seat type —all open tables, for example. Provide a diverse blend of seat types, distributed in a diverse manner, but clearly zoned within the building.

5 – Support social learning

The concept of “see and be seen” so often leveraged in campus centers and other student life settings has made the leap to libraries. What we refer to as “social learning,” or groups of students sitting together, with multiple devices, working on discrete projects, is dominating library space. So much of this generation is about group work, as well as being “alone together.” That is being reflected in the space, furniture, and amenities.

“Bad libraries build collections. Good libraries build services. Great libraries build communities.”
― R David Lankes

6 – Make room for silence

The pendulum has swung about as far as it can toward group work, collaborative study, and social learning. Most libraries retain quiet study floors intermingled with stack space despite the move away from solitary work. More recently, we have started incorporating quiet study rooms, often nested within more open floor plates composed of group work areas.

Despite the shift toward social spaces, libraries are not student centers. They are serious places of research and learning. Research and learning can be open, loud, and collaborative, but it cannot all be that way. Quiet (or silent!) spaces persist for good reason.