The library has been the heart of the university campus for many years, and institutions have already been working to keep the space relevant. University libraries tend to be in the centre of campus, by design, but is yours a place students and staff want to visit?
Here are five ways to make sure the library stays at the heart of your campus:
The library should be a place for collaboration, not just quiet, contemplative study. The way students study, work and collaborate is changing and the library needs to evolve to meet their needs. A variety of furniture types, white boards, technology and work zones and even a café will make your library an irresistible space on campus. The Royal Holloway University of London’s library includes collaborative work-spaces for students to gather. A café in a library building adds another informal area and a different working style option for staff and students.
- But, don’t forget about concentration
Noise absorption, quiet zones and specialised work areas can help meet the balance between collaboration and concentration – giving students and staff the best of both worlds in one space. Furniture like solo work pods can offer quiet spaces with the flexibility to move them, when needed. In open-plan areas, be sure to install baffling for sound absorption, like the LSE Life library in London. Protect quiet spaces with good signage and etiquette guides, just like the quiet coach on a train.
- Student wellbeing
Student wellbeing levels continue to be well below those of the general population of young people, according to the Student Academic Experience Survey 2019 by Advance HE and Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) – see panel, Research findings.
How can libraries help improve wellbeing? They should offer students a space to escape, work quietly, meet, relax and recharge.
When refurbishing your library, you must consider biophilia; give students natural light, and plants or natural materials, which positively affects their wellbeing. The library at the University of Portsmouth provides ample natural light from large windows around the space.
- Flexibility for the future
Small or large, libraries need to be flexible. While static bookcases can’t be easily moved, how furniture and workstations are implemented can make the world of difference. Think ahead to your finished space in one years’ time – how will it be used? Flexible furniture, moving walls or partitions, and expanding meeting spaces can all help towards future-proofing your library.
- Culture change
If you’re looking at a dramatic new design and layout, you’ll need to think about a change in culture, too. This starts with understanding what students need from the space. While there are great examples across HE, each campus is unique and should consider its own students’ needs; a student survey could give you the answers you need.
When the library re-opens after refurbishment, staff and students will need to be educated on new etiquette, the types of work zones, as well as technology and features. This can be achieved in a multitude of ways from signage and QR codes, to more formal ‘learn your library’ tours or sessions.
Source: The 2019 Student Academic
Experience Survey (https://bit.ly/36YEgeo) by
Advance HE and the Higher Education Policy