Spotlight on Campus Library Design

College and university libraries are important campus spaces—places for students to study, reflect, and gather research materials.  Jeffrey Sronkoski, principal and director–Higher Education practice for Legat Architects, knows all about these spaces, as he has helped Legat advance their expertise in academic libraries in higher education. College Planning & Management asked some questions about designing libraries that also function as a versatile academic space; something Jeffrey is quite familiar with.

Q. Despite the current focus on collaboration and active learning, how do academic libraries still cater to the student seeking private study space?

A. Most academic libraries are designating both “active” and “quiet” zones within the library space. Generally, the quiet spaces for private study are being zoned away from the entrance to the library where the more active collaborative spaces usually are located. These private study spaces can either be provided in open seating areas carved out of the stacks, or in small group study rooms located anywhere in the library. One of our clients, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science [North Chicago, IL], even has a space in its library designated as “silent,” in addition to its active and quiet zones.

Q. What advice would you have for better integrating academic support like writing and tutoring into academic libraries?

A. Depending on the institution and space available, many have already co-located these support services either in the same building as their libraries, or as a zone within the library proper. As the library paradigm shift continues from content consumption to content creation, the role of the librarian is also shifting from one that focuses on cataloging to one that is more focused on support. So it seems fitting that the lines could become even more blurred between the role of the librarian and the tutor, depending on the institution. It makes sense to plan for this integration or, at the very least, ask the right questions.

Q. How can the design of libraries better connect with today’s students and encourage them to spend more time there?

A. Perhaps the library needs to be examined as a “third place” on campus. Applying some of Ray Oldenburg’s third place concepts, from his book The Great Good Place, to campus buildings might be worth some consideration. Oldenburg’s premise is the need for a third place in our lives without the structure of our first place (home) and our second place (work). So, if the students’ first place on campus is their student housing, and their second place is the classroom, then perhaps the library (and other buildings on campus such as the Student Center) should be thought of as third places, promoting some of the characteristics that Oldenburg describes:Neutral Ground, Informal Gathering, Engagement, Accessibility and Playfulness…a Home Away from Home.