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Deans Update: Evaluating Library Spaces

W. W. Hagerty LibraryThe success of a new building or a renovation can be gauged in many ways – but none better than by the actions and reactions of the users of the space. As the Libraries addresses the strategic direction to build learning environments that enable self-directed learning, we explore what contributes to such an environment, including the expectations for library spaces. In this issue of In Circulation, I will summarize two recent assessments.

Nearly 3,000 students visited the Library Learning Terrace during the first two full academic quarters - fall 2011 and winter 2012. Observation and counts of their use as well as a survey offered opportunities to provide feedback on Drexel’s newest learning environment. The evidence gathered suggests that the space is heavily used with nearly a quarter of its seats occupied at any time, and an increasing number of times when more than three-quarters of its available seats are used. As intended, those using the space rearrange the furniture and portable writing boards in ways suiting individual and group study.  It is perceived to be safe, aesthetically pleasing, and easily accessible, especially convenient to those in the resident halls, and encourages behaviors associated with developing self-directed learning habits, such as active engagement with peers, practice communication with other students, and reflection on what is learned.

Through discussions and viewing images of spaces, the 'work of learning' surfaced as a key activity associated with W. W. Hagerty Library. A Philadelphia-based architect who specializes in libraries conducted a series of conversations with students, faculty, and staff to help envision a successful library at Drexel in coming years. The results identified a desire for environments that encourage quiet and intense individual study and additional areas where students could interact in groups and with experts from the Libraries and on campus. Similar to the Learning Terrace environment, the expectation repeatedly arose to design flexibility to customize areas for work as needed.

We welcome engagement of those interested in the Libraries’ physical facilities. Stay tuned to future issues of In Circulation to learn about activities associated with building learning environments in library spaces.

Danuta A. Nitecki, Ph.D.
Dean of Libraries

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