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The Library as Place: The changing nature and enduring appeal of library buildings and spaces

September 2006: Compiled and annotated by Sue Searing and Karla Stover Lucht

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Part Two: Academic and Research Libraries

--An architect's perspective
--Space planning for academic and research libraries
--Special topic: study areas
--Special topic: learning spaces
--Special topic: remote storage
--Case study: Lied Library, University of Nevada at Las Vegas
--For further information and inspiration - Other articles and web sites


In 2001, an article by Scott Carlson in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled "The Deserted Library," provoked fierce discussion among academic librarians about the meaning of decreasing gate counts and declining circulation statistics. These and other publications and events have contributed to a lively literature about the centrality of "the library as place" on North American campuses. This issue of UI Current LIS Clips focuses on publications of the past two years (2004-2006), with an emphasis on research findings and case studies, and on three special topics - study areas, learning spaces, and remote storage.

An architect's perspective

1. Foote, Steven M. "Changes in Library Design: An Architect's Perspective." Portal: Libraries and the Academy, vol. 4, no.1 (2004): 41-59.

Although the grandly scaled reading room remains the iconic image of the scholarly library, trends in technology and collaborative learning are greatly affecting how libraries are renovated or built today. In this richly illustrated essay, Foote identifies the important elements that should be incorporated into future library building programs to reinforce collaborative learning:

  1. A sense of ownership by the users, facilitated by space that can be assigned for a semester or other duration.
  2. Staff and faculty offices sized and furnished to hold three-four students sharing coffee or a meal with the faculty member.
  3. Instructional spaces integrated with work and study spaces.
  4. Specification of how different members of the academic community will use the space.
  5. Imagining of each setting in which learning takes place.
  6. Consideration of the time of day that furniture will be used, and the types of use.
  7. Group study rooms with round tables, chairs on casters, and wall-mounted video screens.
  8. Special Collections rooms used for seminars.
  9. Specification of acoustical characteristics, to facilitate the use of appropriate technologies.
  10. Specification of spatial and environmental characteristics, for right-sized and well-lit spaces.

Space planning for academic and research libraries

2. Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, February 2005. 89pp.
http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub129abst.html (HTML or PDF full text)

In this collection of essays, six experts share their insights on the future of libraries as places for teaching, learning, and research in the digital age.

  • Architect Geoffrey T. Freeman reaffirms the library's position at the heart of a campus's intellectual community. Redesigned libraries that integrate information technologies and support collaborative learning have seen their usage stats rise dramatically. Libraries today must offer both a stimulating social environment and oases for quiet contemplation. Key to a physical library's success are its relation to the institution's needs and aspirations, and a flexible use of space that can adapt to inevitable change.

  • Scott Bennett, retired director of libraries at Yale, argues that library planners must move away from a "culture of service" that bases building plans on knowledge about library operations, and toward a "culture of learning" that puts the student learning experience in the foreground. He describes library space planning at Sewanee, The University of the South, as an example of "asking the right questions" through student surveys and interviews. What furthers learning? More time spent on learning tasks and more conversations about course topics outside of the classroom. By creating environments that function as "domesticated public spaces," librarians can foster active learning in a community context. When that happens, Bennett asserts, "we will be able to align library operations and library space with the fundamental learning missions of the colleges and universities that support them." See also Bennett's earlier report, Libraries Designed for Learning (Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2003).

  • Sam Demas, library director at Carleton College, notes that the renowned ancient library at Alexandria was not merely a storehouse of literature, but a center for arts and inquiry. As academic libraries reinvent themselves in the 21st century, they can find inspiration in the Alexandrian model. Demas provides a long list of what students actually do in Carleton's Gould Library, including:
    • Reading and relaxing in safety and in quiet
    • Individual study
    • Group study
    • Checking email and using the web
    • Finding information for assignments and academic projects Information production: computing, writing, creating presentations
    • Attending classes in library classrooms and seminar rooms
    • Browsing


Library patrons also engage in what Demas labels "nonlibrary uses":

    • Using other academic support services located in the library, such as the Writing Center and the Career Center
    • Meeting friends and socializing
    • Eating and drinking
    • Participating in cultural events and civic discourse through library-hosted programs
    • Having fun
    • Visiting/touring
    • Viewing exhibitions
    • Appreciating art, design, and nature

In a sidebar, Demas suggests ways for libraries and campus museums to collaborate.

  • Bernard Frischer, a scholar of classics, claims that "the research library will survive because of the introduction of ever more and newer digital technologies, not in spite of them." As print-on-demand becomes the norm, physical libraries will gain greater value as repositories for rare books, manuscripts, and books that have not been digitized. Volume counts will not be the measure of great libraries, but rather the quality of their information management and presentation. Some digital formats are not designed for dissemination over the Internet - for example, immersive 3-D computer models, for which libraries should build theaters. Libraries should design work environments for optimal use of multiple e-resources at a time, to satisfy the humanist's need to consult many editions of a text, and to foster collaborative scholarship. Inspirational library spaces should emphasize the "the centripetal, community-building power of real physical presence over the alienating, community-rending effects of mere virtual presence."

  • Librarian Christina A. Peterson describes the planning for and first year of operations at the Dr. Martin Luther King Library in San Jose, a blended academic and public library. Before the merger, a benchmarking study identified what the student users and the public library users most valued. Achieving efficiencies of scale in a new building, the library retains designated spaces for children and teens, group study areas, quiet areas, and special collections, while merging the reference desk and sharing instructional spaces. The users themselves defined silent and not-quiet areas. The library is a civic space that facilitates the full range of user activities: information seeking; recreation; teaching and learning; connection; and contemplation.

  • Kathleen Burr Oliver (Welch Medical Library, Johns Hopkins University), describes a range of projects that use the medical library as a base from which to reach out to specialized clinical and patient user groups. Among these services are "touchdown suites," small (400 sq. ft.) library facilities distributed around campus, where liaison librarians (dubbed "informationists") interact with users in their own environments. These spaces are complemented by virtual knowledge environments. More information is available at: http://www.welch.jhu.edu/architecturalstudy/index.html

3. Aamot, Gordon, and Steve Hiller. Library Services in Non-Library Spaces. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, Office of Leadership and Management Services, 2004. 110pp. (SPEC Kit 285).

More than half the respondents to a survey of the Association of Research Libraries' members reported offering scheduled, in-person library services in non-library spaces. Academic departments, hospitals and other clinical settings, and computer labs are the most common locations for long-established outreach services, while newer services target residence halls, study halls, and other places where students gather. An individual librarian's initiative was the motivating factor behind 80% of the programs. The hosting locations may fund equipment and promotion, as well as providing space. To date, non-library service points are largely entrepreneurial and opportunistic; they are not fully integrated into public service programs and are rarely formally assessed. In addition to the survey results and analysis, this kit includes sample marketing materials, schedules, a short bibliography, and evaluations of pilot projects at the University of Alberta and Rutgers.

4. Lippincott, Joan K. "New Library Facilities: Opportunities for Collaboration." Resource Sharing & Information Networks vol. 17 no. 1/2 (2004): 147-157. Also published as a chapter in Libraries Within Their Institutions: Creative Collaborations, ed. by William Miller and Rita M. Pellen (Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 2004), pp. 147-157.

Lippincott (Coalition for Networked Information) zeroes in on the rationales for collaborative technology-rich facilities within academic libraries - such as information commons, teaching and learning centers, and multimedia studios. Many libraries have housed other units in the past, such as writing centers, but the relationships were often distant or strained. Genuine collaboration involves the development of shared goals, joint planning, an awareness of and valuing of each partner's expertise, and pooling of resources.

Rationales for collaboration:

  • To provide seamless service to users.
  • To leverage the expertise of different professional groups.
  • To pool institutional resource.


Barriers to collaboration:

  • Identifying with the mission of one's department rather than the overall mission of the campus.
  • Different organizational and work styles.
  • Stereotypes about professions.
  • Institutional administrative structures that foster competition for resources.


To make partnerships work:

  • Spotlight collaboration as an explicit goal for a new facility.
  • Involve campus-level committees in the planning.
  • Pay as much attention to planning for the relationship between the partners as to planning for the physical space.
  • Develop shared meaning. For example, what does it mean to provide user support?
  • Include a recurring assessment component.


CNI prepared a web site which, although somewhat out of date, points to some useful examples of collaborative facilities: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~collab/index.html

5. Carlson, Scott. "Thoughtful Design Keeps New Libraries Relevant: Not Everything the Students Want and Need is Online." The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 52 no. 6 (September 30, 2005): B1-B5.

Carlson demonstrates how false the notion is that the large amount of money spent on building or renovating libraries is wasted because users can find what they want at home on the Internet.

  • Libraries today have: cafes, lounge areas, classrooms, conference centers and group-study areas; high-end multi media equipment, computers with advanced software, and areas for lessons in information literacy to accompany the stacks of books.
  • Librarians have abandoned circulation statistics as a measure of their success; instead, they keep counts of library attendance.

Carlson also discusses a research conducted by Harold B. Shill and Shawn Tonner on how users feel about the library.

  • The library's location on campus makes little difference in its popularity among students. Nor does its size, number of rooms, or availability of wireless connection.
  • Basic comfort is important-rated highly were quality of natural lighting, quality of work spaces, quality of heating and air-conditioning, and ambience of the building. Computer and Internet access is also important.
  • 80% of libraries in new locations or significantly renovated buildings had an increase of traffic once the building was finished.


6. Burckel, Nicholas C. "Library Space in the Digital Age." In Digital Library Development: The View from Kanazawa, pp. 225-241. Edited by Deanna B. Marcum and Gerald George. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006.

Digital technology and user expectations are the pervasive, mutually reinforcing factors that most profoundly affect the design of new library construction, as evidenced in many areas:

  • Content in many formats, digital technology, and the dissemination of research are being integrated.
  • The "information commons" has arisen as a model for a user-centered library, replacing old models based on disciplinary clusters or library service functions. Users find assistance in one place both for locating information and for using software to access and utilize it.
  • Collaboration between the library and other campus units, especially academic computing, is increasingly necessary.
  • Art galleries, university presses, and teaching and writing centers are now often included in library buildings. Flexible conference and meeting spaces within the library encourage such "complementary services."
  • The library is once again becoming a prime site for instruction.
  • Rapid change and discontinuities caused by technology mandate flexible design to meet unknown future needs. Examples include easily moved furniture, easily accessed power and data lines running under raised floors, and mobile equipment carts.
  • Digital obsolescence and technology replacement must be provided for in the operating budget.
  • Whereas in the past the need to store and preserve print collections drove most library construction and expansion, in the future the driving force will be user needs. The virtual collection will increasingly supplant the physical collection.
  • It takes more study space to serve the same number of students today than it did 20 years ago, because students need space for their portable computers as well as books and other research materials. Library study spaces must accommodate a wide variety of learning styles and the trend toward more social and interactive learning.
  • Cafes promote studying by providing a spot for relaxation and conversation.
  • As multipurpose computer stations replace dumb terminals, more seating space is needed for extended usage. Lighting requirements are changing as well.
  • Digital image and sound are becoming as important as text. The distinction between libraries, audiovisual centers and production studios is blurring.

Special topics: study areas

7. Xia, Jingfeng. "Visualizing Occupancy of Library Study Space with GIS Maps." New Library World, vol. 106, no. 5/6 (2005): 219-233.

Providing adequate study space is a perennial concern of academic libraries. General guidelines for the amount of space to allocate for studying cannot take into account the actual use patterns of individual buildings. At the University of Arizona, Xia measured daily usage of library study spaces and used GIS (geographic information systems) technology to analyze and visualize the data.


  • Data was organized at the floor, segment, and facilities levels. Each floor was divided into segments based on physical location; each segment was described according to the number and type of study facilities, such as carrels, tables, sofas, etc.
  • Occupancy was observed and recorded daily at 10am, 3pm, and 8pm, over a three month period.
  • Frequency-of-use ratios were calculated and displayed on floor and segment maps, which were drawn using ArcView software.
  • Maps could be layered to display a temporal dimension, e.g. usage of a space at different times of day.

Analysis and findings:

  • Tables are preferred over carrels. This is especially pronounced during low-use periods, when there are plenty of free seats to choose from. Tables with electrical and Internet sockets are the busiest. This counters older research that found that students prefer individual semi-enclosed carrels.
  • Tables waste space resources because typically not all the chairs are in use. Possible solutions include smaller two-person tables or more spacious one-person carrels.
  • Group study rooms are popular, but again resources are wasted, because the rooms are often claimed by a single occupant.
  • GIS has great potential as a tool for library space management.

8. Engel, Debra, and Karen Antell. "The Life of the Mind: A Study of Faculty Spaces in Academic Libraries." College & Research Libraries, vol. 65, no. 1 (January 2004): 8-26.

Noting that the literature on academic library space utilization has focused on student users, Engle and Antell report on interviews conducted with faculty members who have individual, lockable spaces in the library and on a survey of ARL libraries. The interviews, at the University of Oklahoma, revealed that the typical carrel occupant uses the space on a regular basis for several hours every week for research-related reading, thinking and writing. A library carrel is valuable because it offers "an oasis of solitude" and facilitates serendipitous discoveries in the adjacent stacks. Professors report that their "academic upbringing" conditioned them to work productively in the library. They expressed a "passionate" attachment to their space. Seventy-five percent of the ARL libraries that responded to the survey provide faculty spaces. Most are sparsely furnished. About half the libraries have a waiting list for the spaces. The authors speculate that younger generations of scholars, accustomed to conducting online research from non-library locations, may not feel as strongly about the need for faculty space in libraries.

Special topic: Learning spaces

9. Bennett, Scott. "The Choice for Learning." Journal of Academic Librarianship, vol. 32, no. 1 (January 2006): 3-13.

With the magical convenience of digital libraries at our fingertips, colleges and universities in the U.S. nevertheless spend nearly a half-billion dollars every year on new and renovated library spaces. Bennett argues that a paradigm shift is needed to reap a rich return on this investment.

The values created by physical library space are challenged by information technology.

  • Traditional libraries, with their monumental designs, contribute to the immersive learning environment of a residential campus.
  • Older library buildings, such as Yale's Sterling Memorial Library, often employed the architectural idiom of the church to manifest values of coherence, legibility (ease of use), complexity (the capacity to stimulate interest and activity), and mystery or adventure. In today's secular society, these values are found in digital culture, which substitutes for the culture of the book.
  • Automated library services and digital information sources place a high value on the reader's time. Convenience and increased productivity are emphasized.
  • Digital technologies create compelling alternatives to physical environments, and even co-exist with them (for example, the ubiquitous use of cell phones). Virtual environments enable rich experiences, collaboration, and immersion.
  • Why, then, do we continue to build physical libraries? Because humans are a social species, and we still expect libraries to support immersive learning.


Trends are discernable in academic library building projects between 1992 and 2002:

  • One of the strongest motivations for library construction was the need to shelve expanding paper-based collections, though this need is expected to decline in the future.
  • Libraries responded well to rapidly changing telecommunications technologies by installing and updating both wired and wireless networks.
  • Librarians effectively asserted their responsibility for cultivating information literacy, as expressed in the creation of electronic classrooms and information commons.
  • The social dimension of learning was recognized by the inclusion of snack bars and cafes.
  • Importance was given to providing group study space for active learning through collaboration. While users were highly satisfied with new and renovated libraries during this period and usage statistics skyrocketed, these changes were still grounded in the traditional paradigm of academic library design.


The obstacles to developing a new paradigm for library space are generally unrecognized. They are:

  • Conceiving of students and faculty as "information consumers" rather than "learners." This, Bennett argues, is confusing the means with the end.
  • Giving primacy to service issues in library space design. Planning is based on knowledge of library operations, rather than an understanding of how students learn.
  • Allegiance to a "foundational view of knowledge." Bennett explains that a foundational view of knowledge conceives of it as an external reality and values the teacher's authority over it. By contrast, a non-foundational conception of knowledge holds that it is constructed by people within communities. Scientific research labs are settings where non-foundational views of knowledge can be observed.


There are two ways to overcome the obstacles and achieve a new paradigm for library space design.

  • By embracing the virtual library, we can move beyond large central spaces into the world of networked information. The Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University is following this path, by locating librarians in small suites in clinical and research buildings around campus. This model still views the user as an information consumer. It is best suited to graduate professional education.
  • By focusing on learning as a social activity, and on learners as creators of knowledge, libraries can do more with their physical spaces than merely increase the number of group study rooms. This approach is better suited for undergraduate liberal arts education.


To envision the new paradigm in practice, Bennett engages in a "thought experiment" about the reference desk - a constant feature in libraries that has changed little in recent years.

  • The traditional design of the reference desk is firmly rooted in a foundational view of knowledge. It affirms the librarian's authority, the centrality of the teaching function, and the role of the student as information consumer.
  • More modern reference desks relax the barrier between reader and librarian - for instance, through lowered work surfaces and a chair for the reader - but still define it as the librarian's workspace and the reader as a visitor.
  • An alternative design could position the librarian and reader together at a desk with a computer, perhaps outside of the library. In the Welch Medical Library model, the librarian, not the reader, is the visitor.
  • A more radical vision would eliminate the reference desk altogether and substitute a comfortable lounge setting to foster collaborative relationships between librarians and readers.


Eventually, all disciplines will rely primarily on digital information, and it will be possible to deliver many library services in the readers' own workspaces. Instructional librarians already prefer to go into a professor's classroom, rather than bring the class to the library. But Bennett argues for "the centripetal ideal of a single universe of knowledge" and the library's central role as a community builder in the dispersed modern university. A library that celebrates the community of scholars and the basic educational mission of the university - in other words, a library that holds a non-foundational view of knowledge - will be designed to situate information in the social context of learning.

10. Forrest, Charles, and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe. "Beyond Classroom Construction and Design: Formulating a Vision for Learning Spaces in Libraries." Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 4 (Summer 2005): 296-300.

Two case studies reveal different approaches to remodeling academic libraries.

  • At Emory University, a major project to expand and renovate the main library resulted in the creation of an area dubbed the "InfoCommons" - a large cluster of workstations, centrally located, with integrated support from both librarians and technology specialists. The workstations offer a full suite of application software as well as access to online library resources. Three instructional classrooms are controlled by the library, while other classrooms within the building are assigned to campus needs. Instructional spaces feature comfortable, moveable furniture, wireless and mobile computing, interactive white boards, and instructors' workstations similar to those elsewhere on campus. Forrest asserts that the information commons provides a framework for thinking about "the next generation of technology-enabled, learner-centered facilities and services."

  • At the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, a study group of public services librarians formulated a "Statement on Learning Spaces" that has driven incremental improvements to library spaces. The statement takes a broad view of learning spaces, including not only classrooms but configurations of public computers to facilitate collaborative learning, and the placement of furniture and shelving. At the outset, the group focused on needs rather than on the constraints of a historic building, the lack of designated funding, and the necessity of continuing public access to the card catalog until retrospective conversion of records is completed. Desirable spaces were listed: small group spaces for collaboration, furnished with comfortable seating, equipment, and noise abatement; computer clusters for more formal small group instruction, using broadcast software rather than projection; hands-on classrooms in both traditional rows and more flexible layouts; "classroom-on-wheels" units to bring technology into unwired areas; media viewing spaces; and event space for hosting lectures and discussions. Immediate progress was made on several fronts, including loading productivity software on user workstations, obtaining funding for an electronic classroom in the Undergraduate Library, and compacting the card catalog in order to free up space for tables and chairs. Although not all the ideas in the Statement have been implemented, the study group approach proved an effective way for a small group to create a shared philosophy and commitment to influence change.

Special topic: Remote Storage

11. Seaman, Scott. "High-Density Off-Site Storage in North American Research Libraries." IATUL Proceedings, vol. 14 (2004).  http://www.iatul.org/conference/proceedings/vol14/fulltexts/Scott%20Seaman.pdf

To create space for computers, group study areas, and instructional classrooms in existing library buildings, research libraries are increasingly moving portions of their collections to remote buildings with high-density shelving. Harvard opened the first such facility in 1986; in the next fifteen years, more than two dozen ARL libraries followed suit. By storing books on tall shelving and arranging them by size rather than classification, space efficiencies more than seven times that of conventional shelving are realized.

PASCAL (Preservation and Access Services Center for Colorado Academic Libraries) serves the University of Colorado from its location in a warehouse district near Denver. In addition to the storage module, the building includes a processing area, offices, and reading rooms. Up to four additional storage modules can be added as needed in the future, without expanding the other areas.

Each incoming item already has a barcode linked to its bibliographic record in the online circulation system. A second barcode is assigned, enabling its shelving position to be tracked as well. A custom-designed "order selection vehicle" (a battery-powered forklift) enables operators to retrieve items from acid-free cardboard trays on high shelves and later reshelve them. Like most such facilities, PASCAL has state-of-the-art climate control. Patrons initiate requests for materials directly through the online catalog; they are delivered to campus by a courier service. Journal volumes are delivered to the patron for self-service photocopying; at other universities' storage facilities, staff may fax or digitize articles upon request.

The advantages that facilities like PASCAL offer libraries include: the freeing up of space for technology and instruction; security and preservation for older materials; the creation of more coherent, browsable collections on the open shelves; and in some libraries, the full cataloging of un- or under-cataloged materials, since books in storage must have adequate records in the online catalog. Scholars, however, perceive disadvantages: the precluding of browsing; and the weakening of a research library's strongest asset, its extensive holdings of less popular materials. The remaining on-site collections do not reveal the full scope of a discipline, and waiting for delivery can stall the momentum of discovery.

12. Snowman, Ann MacKay. "The Penn State Annex: The Life and Times of an Off-Site Storage Facility." Collection Management, vol. 30 no. 1 (2005): 45-53.

Snowman writes about the way the Penn State libraries' off-site storage facility impacted the development of the collections and programs at the University Park campus - a perspective seldom seen in the literature. Approximately 28% of the libraries' collections are shelved in two off-site facilities, collectively known as "the annex." One is located on campus and the other off-campus in an industrial park. Materials are housed on compact shelving in "pseudo-call number order." That is, as each new set of books is deposited by a unit library, they are kept in call number order as a distinct group. Subject selectors are responsible for identifying materials for storage. Approximately 35,000 volumes are added annually.

The existence of the annex allowed the Physical Sciences Library to experiment with an alternative to binding less-used print titles for which electronic subscriptions were in place. As volumes were completed, the issues were shrink-wrapped and sent to the annex. When structural problems were discovered in the Mathematical Sciences Building, necessitating the speedy removal of 4,000 weighty volumes, the annex was able to receive them. The annex has also served as a temporary location for collections during renovations and mergers. To correct and enhance copy-level location data in the online catalog for stored serials and other materials, the Wireless Barcoding Project was launched, resulting in increased circulation for items not previously discoverable. Today, the annex is an active component of Penn State's collection management. Staffing levels and services have increased over time, and planning is underway for a new high-density storage facility.

13. White, Fred D. "Libraries Lost: Storage Bins and Robotic Arms." The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 52 no. 6 (September 30, 2005): B8-B9.

Although many large academic libraries have turned to compact book storage, sometimes in remote buildings, to free up space, faculty members often object strenuously to this move. White, a professor of English at Santa Clara University, eloquently summarizes their arguments.

  • Though librarians scorn it as an information-seeking strategy, browsing is an important stage of research.
  • The serendipitous insights sparked by browsing cannot be replicated in an online catalog, where the links are predetermined by librarians and tend to lead one away from the original subject.
  • After high start-up costs, automated book retrieval systems are supposed to save money - but are the savings worth the loss of accessibility?
  • Beyond holding information, books are artifacts that bring aesthetic enjoyment, and libraries full of them inspire awe. "We must find a way to make physical books precious to young people once again."

Case study: Lied Library, University of Nevada at Las Vegas

14. Starkweather, Wendy, and Kenneth Marks. "What If You Build It, and They Keep Coming and Coming and Coming?" Library Hi Tech, vol. 23, no. 1 (2005): 22-33.

The Lied Library at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, opened in 2001 to great acclaim for its exterior and interior design and its high-tech features. In the new building, the gate count jumped 103%, and contacts between users and library staff increased 160%. The library continues to attract visitors from the community, tourists, and colleagues from other campuses. Starkweather and Marks describe several success factors, including:

  • Building and interior design attributes, such as a striking façade, a welcoming atrium, immediately visible options for group or quiet study, and traditional wood furnishings that add warmth to the modern building.
  • State-of-the-art technology, including an automated compact storage system, classrooms for collaborative teaching and learning, a media distribution system, and a circulating collection that uses RFID tags to enhance check-out and inventory.
  • Spaces allotted for a browsing collection, graduate and professional student lounge, the honors college, and a café.
  • Relaxed policies on food and drink and community use of computers.


Other factors that may have boosted use of the new library include:

  • Its significant improvement over the old, hard-to-use facility.
  • UNLV's nature as a commuter school, and the consequent need of students for places to hang out.
  • Growth in enrollment.
  • Attention from local media and the national library press.


One outcome of the library's success has been a huge increase in tours for visiting librarians, which has added to the staff's workload but also increased their pride in the library. Other ramifications are:

  • A need for more routine cleaning and maintenance to keep the building looking new.
  • Heavy competition for seats and computers, and unacceptable noise levels at peak usage times.
  • Disproportionate use by non-university users, who constitute 10% of borrowers and 10% of computer users, straining the system.
  • More emphasis on security personnel maintaining a safe environment conducive to research and study.
  • Adaptations in computer and service desk configurations to match actual use patterns.


Now UNLV librarians are looking ahead to a time when the newness of the building no longer attracts users, and they must find other ways to stay at the center of campus attention.

A great deal has been written about the Lied Library. For more background, see:

15. Photos of the building and its interior spaces: http://www.library.unlv.edu/info/newlib/photos/album/index.html

16. Eden, Brad, ed. "The New Lied Library at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas: Focus on the Planning and Implementation of Technology and Change." Thematic issue of Library Hi Tech, v.20, no.1 (2002).

The physical design, services, and innovative technology of Lied Library are explored in ten articles, which are notable for their detailed discussion of what didn't work as well as what did.

17. Eden, Bradford Lee, ed. "UNLV Libraries: Four Years Later." Thematic issue of Library Hi Tech, vol. 23, no. 1 & no. 3 (2005).

The eighteen articles in these two issues document how the move to a new library building sparked innovations across all departments within the library. Ken Marks's and Tom Findley's "posts-construction thoughts" (pp. 16-21) span issues from service desks to upholstery to answer the question, "What would you do differently?"

For further inspiration and information


19. Shill, Harold B., and Shawn Tonner. "Creating a Better Place: Physical Improvements in Academic Libraries, 1995-2002." College & Research Libraries, vol. 64, no. 6 (November 2003): 431-466.

_____________."Does the Building Still Matter? Usage Patterns in New, Expanded, and Renovated Libraries, 1995-2002." College & Research Libraries, vol. 65, no. 2 (March 2004): 123-150.

This pair of articles are frequently cited, because they provide the most exhaustive analysis of trends in academic library buildings at the turn of the 21st century and confirm the continued importance of library as place.

Web sites

20. Whole Building Design Guide.

Sponsored by the National Institute of Building Sciences, the WBDG brings together information about requirements, standards, technologies and trends for many sorts of buildings. Click on "Building Types" on the left-hand menu; then find "Libraries" on the alphabetical list. On separate pages for academic, public, school, and presidential libraries, the building's key attributes are described, and standards and guidelines are cited. A section headed "Emerging Issues" suggests trends and future developments that building planners should keep in mind.

21. Library as Space - Library as Place.

This wiki is devoted to space issues in academic and special libraries worldwide, and is hosted by the Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) University Library. Its purpose is to promote discussion of topics such as planning and funding and to provide photos of various library spaces, such as cafes, computer labs, group study rooms, and reference areas. The bibliography cites a number of case studies of recently redesigned academic libraries.

To subscribe visit https://mail.isrl.uiuc.edu/mailman/listinfo/clips










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