The (Nearly) Perfect Training Room

by Klaus U. Werner

Training Rooms in Libraries

Library space, where librarians teach information literacy, should not look like an old-fashioned classroom or a computerized training room which might be found in a computer centre. In a traditional information technology training room or a computer laboratory.  The furniture and its arrangement convey messages to occupants: don’t move, don’t discuss, don’t feel comfortable! Tables are usually placed in rows. There are rarely windows that allow views of the outside world. The computers and large monitors dominate, there might be some digitized displays – but there is limited space for the learners. The students using the facility will become tired very quickly. The following images of traditional training rooms typify the stereotyped and stultifying atmosphere which develops, even if the colours are bright.

 

The Challenge

The challenge in designing a perfect training room is to develop an environment for teaching in the library that is more than just user-friendly. The space must be inspiring and encourage learning. The space must promote information and media literacy. The environment must enhance the course content and delivery and contribute strongly to the success of the training being conducted. Space for training and instruction in libraries must provide a motivating and stimulating setting suitable for all users: for children in school libraries, for young people in universities and for adults of all ages in public libraries.

What to do?

Teaching spaces within the library should be quite different from ordinary classrooms or computer training centres. The design of library teaching spaces and the equipment provided should support individual learning strategies as well as collaborative learning. There is a wide range of students’ individual learning styles and flexibility of furniture to create different settings is vital. What requirements must be met in the interior design off rooms designated for teaching? Tables equipped with computers, chairs and a projector hung from the ceiling do not suffice. Attention must be given to lighting, acoustical treatment of doors and ceilings and control of temperature and humidity. The furniture must be flexible. Mobility is a priority. Height-adjustable chairs on a rolling base combined with modular desks on casters are essential and can be achieved on a low budget. Other points to note relate to light and perspective. Is there natural light in the room? Is it possible to look outside the windows? Is there sufficient fresh air?

Heavy chairs and tables are not appropriate. The worst option would be permanent, fixed furniture. The ideal result is a Starbucks feeling with a mixture of a variety of styles and designs of chairs. Students working in groups learn collaboratively and space designed for teaching and learning in groups can be used for formal training and teaching sessions as well as for informal group learning.

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University Library Colombo (Sri Lanka)

Other Strategies

Flexibility applies not only to furniture but also to hardware emphasizing the use of notebook and tablet computers rather than fixed large desktops. Alternatively, users can bring their own devices.

Glass walls and doors provide transparency allowing users passing by to see what is going on inside. And that can motivate them to join a tutorial or a class. Nowadays projectors are so bright and their operation so well-developed that dimming the light in the room is no longer necessary.

The Look and Feel

Another approach is to provide a living room atmosphere: The balance of teaching, learning and relaxing characterizes the favourite preferred style of learning and a feel-good learning atmosphere for the younger generation. The addition of a coffee machine or a water dispenser provides the opportunity to have a break or to take coffee during long, intensive training sessions – why not?

The library should be “cool” and resemble a Starbucks cafe or an Apple store. While being “cool” might not be an appropriate or realistic goal for libraries in every country or in every culture, the idea is to develop a vision of successful communication through library space and services which suits young adults – but without becoming a slave to fads or trends.

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University of Tokyo Main Library (Japan)

Final Words

To create effective training rooms in libraries, the most important considerations are:

  • Flexible space to suit teaching and formal and informal learning for both individuals and groups
  • A relaxing space facilitating communication between the teacher and the learners, and the learners with each other
  • “Cool” design
  • An inspiring and motivating atmosphere
  • Use of mobile devices like notebooks and tablets instead of inflexible computer equipment
  • Optimisation of natural light, but avoiding glare

The ultimate aim is to achieve a balance of teaching, learning and relaxing.

Further Reading

Altenhöner, Reinhard (2011). Learning and working environments – what students expect; results of a Student Design Contest. Satellite Conference of the World Library and Information Congress: 77th IFLA General Conference and Assembly / Library Building and Equipment Section, Atlanta, USA, 10./11.8.2011.

Gwyer, R., Stubbings, R. & Walton, G. (Eds.) (2012). The road to information literacy. Librarians as facilitators of learning. Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter.

Werner, K. U. (2012). Räumliche und gestalterische Anforderungen an Bibliotheken als Lehr- und Lernort zur Förderung von Informationskompetenz. In: Sühl-Strohmenger, W. & Straub, M. (Eds.), Handbuch Informationskompetenz (p. 451-466). Berlin: de Gruyter.

Author details

Klaus Ulrich Werner is a Director of the Library and Head of the Philological Library at the Freie Universität Berlin. He has degrees in library and information science and a doctorate from the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. He has undertaken various roles within the libraries at the Freie Universität and was project manager for the Philologische Bibliothek also known as the Berlin Brain designed by Lord Norman Foster and opened in 2005. He is a member of the Commission for Library and Archive Building Guidelines of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN), a member of the Board of Speakers of the German Cultural Council and member of the Standing Committee of the IFLA Library Buildings and Equipment Section. He lectures at the Institute of Library and Information Science at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin and has published books and articles on library building and equipment. He provides consulting services on library buildings and change management.

The Critical Role of Outdoor Spaces for the 21st Century Library

by Traci Engel Lesneski

Outdoor Space and the Library

Libraries serve as critical community partners. They evaluate current and future needs and proactively through service provision fill gaps in the community fabric. They sometimes fail to capitalise on a key asset in their toolkit: the outdoors. Library buildings have historically made use of their surroundings to underscore the significance of the building, focus on the attributes of the location and enhance the “place”, beautifying the environment. Libraries of all types and size and in all climates and locations can use their outdoor spaces to enrich the way they fulfill their missions and to serve their communities more effectively. By focusing on the outdoors and virtually turning the library inside out, libraries can increase their available real estate and provide a wide range of benefits to users.

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Southwest Regional Library, Louisville, Kentucky, USA, features curving paths and an infiltration basin bridge, providing opportunities for visitors to understand the surrounding environment.

Encouraging Healthy Lifestyles

Design of libraries can encourage healthy living both inside the library and outdoors. Sit-to-stand worktables are prevalent in staff workrooms and becoming more common in public areas. For lengthy library visits, these types of workstations can help get the blood flowing and prevent back and neck issues. Libraries can promote the use of stairs instead of elevators by making stairs easy to find, more convenient to use and even fun. Unique features such as literary quotes on stair risers, and treads that play music when stepped on, can motivate users of all ages groups to use the stairs.

Ensuring a sound relationship between inside the building and the outdoors has many health benefits. For example, studies have shown that a visual connection to the outdoors increases focus and productivity for library users and provides a sense of well-being. Spaces with access to natural light have rejuvenating benefits for both library users and staff. Providing safe, attractive exterior spaces for staff and visitors extends the focus on wellness.

Libraries in urban locations can ensure their inclusion in the routes of walking tours for tourists and locals, thereby encouraging walking by the community and marketing of their services.  Programming for adults and children can feature outdoor activities linked to community exercise classes. Signs and marketing outreach can highlight the benefits of being active. Some libraries offer secure, covered parking for bicycles and by this means promote their use.

Locations with large areas of green space can host community gardens and support the consumption of nutritious, non-processed local produce.  Well-lit walking paths and convenient connections to surrounding parks and pathways are popular amenities for many libraries. Weather and climate need not be barriers to using outdoor paths. Covered pathways in hot or wet climates facilitate use particularly with inclement weather. The sharing economy has increased borrowing of various items. In cold climates, why not include snowshoe or ski rentals at the library to encourage participation in outdoor activities? The possibilities are limitless.

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The xeriscape-designed garden outside the Sahara West library and Fine Arts Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, invites visitors to enjoy strolling the library’s location before entering the building.

Saving the Planet

Human health is inextricably linked to care of the planet Earth. The library is a highly visible community entity. It can create within the community an awareness of the need for conservation of the environment and provide details of potential improvements through such activities as composting, water conservation, and ecological best practices. The Ramsey County Roseville Library, Minnesota, USA, has a children’s garden featuring an above-ground cistern that collects rainwater from the building’s roof. A spigot on the cistern gives children access to the water, which they can collect in library-provided buckets to water the plants. When a rain event causes spillover, the water travels in a series of visible streams with displays that explore the operation of the water cycle. Vistas of exterior sustainable features from inside the building also serve to raise awareness of ecological issues. The positioning of the Roseville Library’s rainwater collection system within view of the children’s lounge area allows the library to showcase water conservation activities in all weathers.

 

Space for Creative Programming

Library programmes include creative and practical activities for users. Students of all ages and disciplines are increasingly called upon to create projects involving hands-on experiences as well as information access and use. Some “making” activities are messy.  Others require considerable space for their execution or natural resources. Some creative approaches incorporate analogue and digital techniques. The growth of the makerspace movement within libraries has brought with it new reasons to be outside. The library can become a hub for creative activities both inside and outside. In some instances, all that is required is the simple dedication of space. Others require access to power. Urban libraries with limited space can put sidewalks, footpaths, balconies, patios or verandas to use. The visible use of external spaces to passers-by encourages further interest in the library and reinforces its role as a relevant and up-to-date community asset.

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“Maker” activities spill out onto the sidewalk at the Madison Central Library, Wisconsin, USA.

Respite and Relaxation

Libraries have traditionally been places where people have sought solace, inspiration, rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Project for Public Spaces (PPS) (http://www.pps.org )  is the central hub of a global movement connecting people to ideas, expertise, and partners who share a passion for creating vital places. The project describes great public places as accessible, clean, attractive, safe and comfortable places that support activities, where people of all ages meet each other. If the library offers a variety of outdoor options (shaded, sunny, private and communal) and a strong outdoor Wi-Fi signal, diverse groups will use external seating areas for work, meetings and project work, as well as reading and contemplation.

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A reading porch outside the Hennepin County Library in Maple Grove, Minnesota, USA, provides respite and a space for reading and reflection.

Community Fun

Does your library building have a large nondescript exterior wall? The Tulsa City-County Central Library used the wall of a parking garage to create an outdoor screening room in a garden space. Other libraries build patios outside multi-purpose rooms, allowing receptions and meetings to spill outdoors on fine days. Snowman-building competitions or art “make-offs” can bring a community together. The library occupies a unique place in society, and connecting with community members on a purely fun level buttresses the perception of the library as a safe place for all and a significant asset to the community.

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Moviegoers enjoy an event in the garden at Tulsa City-County Central Library.

Generating Energy

Outdoor spaces are increasingly being pressed into practical service as society demands extended sustainability from public buildings, involving energy regeneration and some return to the environment.  Technological advances including photovoltaic (PV) panels and wind turbines are becoming more commonplace and creating a greater awareness of the importance of renewable energy sources. Libraries can add an element of fun by outfitting green roofs or outdoor patios with bicycle energy farms to help staff and visitors burn energy (and calories), while creating electricity to power an aspect of the library, such as laptop charging stations.

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Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on Madison Central Library’s green roof.

Feeding Inspiration

Libraries fuel inspiration through a wide variety of resources inside the building and through Internet access. Inspiration for patrons can also come from outside the building. Outdoor spaces can feature public art, offer serendipitous encounters and encourage community interactions. Amenities such as Madison Central Library’s LED wall pique the interest of artists and passersby, promote interaction with the building and create new understandings of what it means to be a central community asset. Public art installations, such as those created by Candy Chang, artist of the wildly successful “Before I Die” project engage the community in many different ways.

Outdoor spaces and activities can be used by libraries as leverage in service delivery as well as the design of the building. An inventory of outdoor assets will lead to new and exciting discoveries about their potential use in service and outreach to the community.

 

Author details

Traci Engel Lesneski is Principal & Head of Interiors at MSR Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Traci has led dozens of library projects across the United States in her 20+ years designing libraries and learning spaces. Her belief that smartly designed buildings improve lives ensures that her library designs are beautiful, functional, and sustainable. Recent examples of her work include the award winning, dramatic re-imagination of the Madison Central Library, Wisconsin, and transformation of Tulsa City County  Library’s  Central  Library, Oklahoma. Traci speaks regularly at library conferences and she is the author of numerous articles and papers about library design. Traci is currently chair of the ALA LLAMA/BES Architecture for Public Libraries Committee and Secretary of the IFLA Library Buildings and Equipment Section Standing Committee. traci@msrdesign.com

(An earlier version of this blog was originally published for Demco Interiors)

Off-site Library Storage Solutions

by Charles Forrest

“Just-in-case” to “Just-in-time”

Libraries are responding to user preferences for online information access and changes in collection formats. Many are transitioning from “just-in-case” provision of physical items in on-campus storage to “just-in-time” access, combining online information use with a small on-site physical collection and delivery of back-up physical items from off-site storage facilities.

As a result, academic libraries are able to exercise responsible stewardship for important legacy intellectual assets, store general and special collections appropriately and free up valuable library space for alternative uses.  Libraries are reconfiguring space to enable new learning opportunities, celebrate evolving technologies for research and scholarship and create and sustain dynamic academic communities.

off-site-storage-emory
Off-site storage at Emory University

Storage Options

There are tried and true approaches to the storage of and access to physical information resources, both on-site within libraries and off-site in specialised facilities. These include:

  • Standard-height static or mobile shelving  [1]
  • High-density compact shelving[2] which may be manually or electronically operated
  • High-bay static shelving (Harvard model)
  • High-bay high-density compact shelving
  • Automated storage and retrieval

Standard-height Static and High-density Compact Shelving

Standard-height (66 inches [1.68 metres] to a maximum of 96 inches [2.44 metres]) static shelving is the typical way collections have been housed on-site in libraries, in both closed and more recently open stack collections with appropriate aisle space for access by users. Some of this shelving may be curved in its shape but more often is straight.

Use of standard-height high-density compact shelving has grown in recent decades, with the goal either to reduce the amount of space required for a physical collection of a defined size, or to increase the capacity of existing space to accommodate growth. With compact shelving, there is only one aisle for several or many ranges of shelving. Aisle contention may become an issue, particularly in high-turnover circulating collections. Compact shelving for public, open-stack areas offers active and passive safety features. Arrangement of collections in static or high-density compact shelving with open access is usually according to a subject classification to facilitate browsing by users.

Standard-height shelving, both static and high-density compact, has been used efficiently for off-site collections, particularly in spaces originally designed for human occupancy, with typical ceiling heights of nine to ten feet [2.7 to 3 metres]. While some off-site storage facilities maintain a classified subject arrangement, most use a running number order.

High-bay Static Shelving (Harvard model[3]) and High-bay Compact Shelving

Purpose-built off-site storage facilities generally incorporate higher ceiling and shelving heights. High ceilings facilitate the use of high-bay static shelving or high-bay compact shelving. Shelving heights up to 40 feet [12 metres] or more are not uncommon.  Books, bound periodicals and other items are typically stored in trays or bins, or metal or acid-free cardboard, and shelved by size, with no effort to maintain a classified arrangement and call number order to maximise the number of items stored in a given space. Trays or bins are loaded and retrieved using human intervention via a rolling ladder or mechanised lift. A separate online inventory system is often employed to track an item’s location by shelf number and bin number. Such an inventory system is typically linked to the integrated library system, to enable search and discovery, and to facilitate delivery of requests.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

Completely automated systems are available where bins containing items are loaded on to and retrieved from racks, without intervention by a human operator. Retrieved bins are delivered to a central location where an operator takes the requested item from the bin, and prepares it for delivery to the requester. The bin is then returned to the first available space in the rack appropriate to its size. Items returned from circulation or use are loaded into the first available bin for return to the rack. The inventory control system can be programmed to optimise retrieval times by loading more frequently requested items into bins closer to the central location to reduce retrieval time. Such fully automated systems offer the highest storage density per volume of space and are often used for more frequently used materials and built at a central campus to ensure short retrieval times for effective service. Automated systems may also be located off-site.

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Automated storage and retrieval, University of Utah

Process and Design

Factors that influence the choice of shelving and the design and operation of storage facilities include anticipated collection usage rates, desired turnaround times, costs of various construction and maintenance options, and long-term per-volume storage costs. Off-site facilities and service programs should ideally be built around the processes and needs of a particular community. The most effective off-site facilities are designed and built around user needs, workflow processes and the preservation of materials; they are not simply warehouses filled with shelving. The following table summarises various approaches to shelving systems on-site and off-site storage:

Table 1 Types of Storage and Characteristics
Type of storage Density/ Cost/

volume

User Acceptance Retrieval time
On-site Open stack static shelving Low High High Short
Open stack compact shelving Medium High Medium/High Short/Medium
Closed stack static shelving Low High Medium Medium
Closed stack compact shelving Medium High Medium Medium
Automated storage and retrieval High Medium Medium/High Medium
Off-site High Medium Medium/Low Long
Standard-height static Low Medium Medium/Low Long
Standard-height compact Medium Medium Medium/Low Long
High-bay static High Low Medium/Low Long
High-bay compact High Medium/Low Medium/Low Long

Strategy and Partnership

An off-site shelving facility can support research and learning objectives directly through prompt delivery of requested materials and indirectly through releasing on-campus space for new learning spaces. Such facilities are often developed through cooperation or collaboration with partner institutions that have common or complementary needs, as well as through existing or new consortia. Collaborative approaches enable the sharing of resources and joint management of heritage collections. Successful collaboration depends on similar goals for the institutions involved, shared values, sustainable planning and strong leadership.

Systems and Operations

Environmental conditions

Mechanical and digital technologies are important for the successful operation of an off-site facility. Environmental conditions must be cool and dry for the long-term preservation of paper and other materials and vary from conditions for spaces intended for human occupancy. Sophisticated systems need to be designed, built, and maintained to ensure optimal conditions for different media—print-on-paper, microfilm and fiche, magnetic media, photographs and photographic negatives, motion picture film, leather bindings, framed art, and other materials depending on local holdings and collection interests.

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Processing area during initial ingest, Library Service Center, Emory University and Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA

Discovery and inventory control

The discovery layer of the local integrated library system (ILS) must provide robust and reliable access to the bibliographic records for physical items in off-site collections. The ILS must then interoperate with the off-site facility inventory control system to enable the placing of an item request, the generation of a “pick list” and the tracking of an item during the retrieval and delivery process all the way to the initial requester.

Preservation and conservation

Reprographics or scanning technologies are appropriate and effective ways to deliver online facsimiles of portions of printed works such as book chapters or articles in bound periodicals. Duplication of magnetic media such as audio and video tapes, and computer disks and drives can be used to provide access to content while preserving the original and to migrate analogue and digital information from unstable and deteriorating media to more stable and enduring formats.

 

Conclusion

Academic and research libraries acquire, organise and present the inscribed cultural record to support research, discovery, knowledge acquisition and learning. Libraries must protect investments in legacy intellectual assets both by preserving physical media in appropriate and affordable storage facilities and making embodied content available through a variety of physical delivery mechanisms and/or analogue and digital reformatting. Off-site storage facilities occupy an important niche in the emerging twenty-first century environment for teaching, learning, research and scholarship.

Additional Resources

Nitecki, Danuta A. and Curtis L. Kendrick (editors). Library off-site shelving: Guide for high-density facilities. (Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 2001).

A dozen-and-a-half chapters from academic library practitioners and others cover topics ranging from governance and cost, through facility planning and design, to move-in and management. Off-site collections have been a necessary operational component for many academic libraries and library consortia for decades. Fifteen years old but still worth a look.

Image Permanence Institute. https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org. IPI® is a nonprofit, university-based laboratory devoted to preservation research. The world’s largest independent laboratory with this specific scope IPI was founded in 1985 through the combined efforts and sponsorship of the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology. IPI provides information, consulting services, practical tools and preservation technology to libraries, archives, and museums worldwide. The imaging and consumer preservation industries also use IPI’s consulting, testing and educational services.

ReCAP (Research Collections and Preservation Consortium). http://recap.princeton.edu. ReCAP is  a preservation repository and resource sharing service, jointly owned and operated by Columbia University, the New York Public Library and Princeton University. Located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus, ReCAP cares for more than thirteen million items and fulfills some 250,000 requests for materials each year from its partners and from libraries around the world. The ReCAP website is worth exploring as a rich resource for information about a busy and innovative off-site service center.

[1] Terms to describe shelving are used variously throughout the world. Fixed, static or stationary are words used to describe shelving which is fixed in position. It is sometimes called cantilever shelving and may be made from metal or wood and used for display and storage. Some shelving units may be on castors and therefore considered mobile. Most shelving is modular and purchased and installed in components.

[2] High-density shelving is sometimes referred to as compact or mobile shelving.

[3] Lizanne Payne. Library Storage Facilities and the Future of Print Collections in North America.(Dublin, Ohio:  OCLC Programs and Research, 2007) p. 9 http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/library/2007/2007-01.pdf Viewed 13th November 2016

Author details:

Charles Forrest is Principal and Owner, 21CL Consulting and has thirty-five years of experience in academic and research libraries. Charles retired in May 2016 from the position of Director, Library Facilities, Emory University Libraries, Atlanta, Georgia. He held previous positions at Emory and spent nearly a decade with the University of Illinois libraries in Chicago and at the flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign. Charles is a member of the Standing Committee of the IFLA Library Buildings and Equipment Section.  charles.forrest@emory.edu

SCONUL Library Design Award 2016

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Maynooth University Library

Maynooth University (MU) Library is delighted to be one of four libraries (over 2,000 sqm) shortlisted for the prestigious SCONUL Library Design Awards 2016.  The winner will be announced at the 2016 Design Awards Showcase, to take place on Thursday 1 December in London.  Opened in 2013 MU Library added 6,200 sqm to an existing 4,000 sqm building.  Highlights include a range of environmental design features, a diversity of as space catering for a variety of learning styles and the inclusion of significant civic space and art. For more information about the award and the show case click here and click here for information about the MU Library project.