Friday, September 15, 2006

Space, The Final Frontier

Make sure to check out Brian Mathews' great discussion about the "domestication" of the Georgia Tech Library. He details the thought processes and philosophies that went into the transformation of their physical space and relationship with their students.

Brian writes:

I am much more interested in what a person can do in a library than what we can put in one. Function is the key. Action is the key. Verbs, not nouns.
To me, this issue of what can users actually DO (and what do they WANT to do) in the library is the central point of all of the discussions about evaluating and transforming library space and policies. Of course, the end result of those examinations and discussions is going to be different in each different library. beacuse it's about what your users want and expect from the library. But the process of asking the questions and adapting to the answers is the important part.

For example, the feedback I get from students at MPOW is that they generally want the library to be a quiet-ish place to work on school stuff and be able to use a computer. Our Student Center is pretty boisterous with people eating, socializing, playing PS2 and cards and generally raising cain between classes. So the students want a place to concentrate on school work without as many distractions.

Of course school work could mean working on group projects and our library is basically one big room so it's never 100% quiet. Or even close. In fact one student called it the noisiest library (s)he had ever been in. And trying to walk the line between the needs of individual and group work is one of the toughest parts of working here. We want people to be able to work on a group presentation, check their email or chat, study for a test by themselves, and collaborate on work in a WebCT section. Unfortunately there's often an inherent conflict between those actions in a small environment.


We're 100% commuter so we have a lot more hit and run traffic than a residential school. Many students use us as a sanctuary away from the business of family and home and work to get school work done in what little time they can get away. But students also want to use our computers for email, MySpace and Facebook, and even the occasional coursework between classes. Fortunately we generally don't have a problem with the computer use. It tends to have a nice flow even in the busiest part of the day.

So there's not really a one size fits all answer. Your library is going to be different from my library or Brian's library. (And I definitely wish mine was more like Brian's in some ways!) But at least ask the questions and take the answers seriously.


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