The Library as a Third Place

Like any good librarian, my ears are piqued when I overhear discussions about libraries. I love serendipitous encounters like these. Yesterday I was invited to sit in on a symposium sponsored by my university’s humanities center. It was entitled “Space and Place in City and Suburb.” Beforehand, we read two articles (full citations at end): one involving gentrification in Brooklyn (paywall) as analyzed through storefront signs and one article on “placemaking” in Gary, Indiana.

We discussed how your home is considered your first place, work is your second place, but that most of us happen to have third places too–a place where we like to hang out; a place that (ideally) feels welcoming. At my table we shared our third places. I don’t want to get too specific to protect people’s privacy, but in general, people mentioned places like coffee shops, restaurants, gyms, parks, or places from childhood.

Now here is where libraries come into play. Almost every table of students (unprompted by me, mind you) mentioned libraries as a third place. Keeping my emotions in check, this was my “inside” demeanor:

Librarians have been talking about libraries as a third place for awhile, but it was nice to see it reflected in a wider audience.

I tend to avoid over-simplification of generations, but millennials are more likely to use a public library compared to other generations. I recognize that many of the college students now fall into the Gen Z category, but I think similarities can still be drawn.

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A “genius bar” at Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington that combines writing tutor assistance with research assistance from librarians

We discussed how places can be welcoming (or not) and the subtle messages – positive and negative – that exist just beyond a first glance. Questions to ask: Who are these places intended for? Are these places there for people who have existed in the community for a long time? Or are these places trying to attract a different clientele? It had me thinking more about libraries.

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New York Public Library reading room during a 2013 visit

  • Who uses your library? 
  • Who is your library’s marketing and outreach efforts geared towards?Are public libraries catering kids’ story times to upper middle class parents with disposable income? — Who does that leave out? Is it reaching the children who might need it the most? And what stories are you using–are they diverse?
  • How would you describe your library’s physical space? Do you have to keep library restrooms locked because of drug use? — What message is that sending? Do you have comfortable seating? — Might that cause people to linger–is that good or bad? Can someone in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller gain easy access to the building and down aisles? What does that tell folks in those situations?
  • What policies do you have that may impede library use?fines, food/drinks in the library, no sleeping. How does this impact the use of the space?
  • How has the lack of investment and resources in other government services impacted libraries?Are we social workers, tax preparers, drug counselors, mental health professionals, and career advisers–in addition to being a librarian? There seems to be an expectation that libraries need to be everything to everybody, and that has both positive and negative aspects.

I also thought about my recent tours of libraries in the Seattle area and the use of “kindness audits” at libraries I have worked at. For me, a comfortable and inviting third space is open and airy, with natural light. I also want to be able to move around from spaces to collaborate, to those that offer more privacy. Sometimes I need to concentrate and focus, but at other times I like to daydream. A library generally fits the bill for my needs.

Below are a few recommended readings on libraries as third place.

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Open spaces, Seattle Public Library

Links

Articles

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Small(er) Academic Libraries: Highlights from the Field

This week I visited the local MLIS program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies. The instructor of the Academic Libraries course invited me to present about working in smaller academic libraries–a career I have thoroughly enjoyed! Below are my slides and notes.

It was a pleasure talking with the students and their instructor!

Slide1

Small(er) Academic Libraries: Highlights from the Field

  • I’ll tell you a little bit about myself and Carroll University’s library.
  • We’ll do a quick comparison between a small academic library and large academic library.
  • Then the bulk of the presentation will discuss highlights of working in a smaller academic library.

Slide2

A Little Bit About Me

  • BA in history from Ball State University.
    • Changed my major a few times.
    • Starting my freshman year of college, I began as a library student worker.
    • I saw the work that the librarians were doing. They enjoyed their jobs and by senior year I knew this was what I wanted to do.
  • After my bachelor’s degree I got my MLS from Indiana University.
  • Been working as an academic librarian for 16 years now.
  • During most of this time, I’ve been an information literacy and reference librarian.
  • Also spent time working as an instructional technologist – helping faculty integrate e-learning tools into their courses.
  • Worked at 5 different universities and have been at Carroll University now for 5+ years. 
  • While at Carroll, I decided to go back to school and completed my master’s degree in education.
    • It wasn’t a job requirement. Did it for professional development.
    • For me, my MLS was all about library content (books, journals, databases).
    • But to me, libraries are all about people!
    • The master’s in education was a good connection between people and content.
    • Did my research on makerspaces in academic libraries.
  • I hate the question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” because I’m not a person who plots out a career trajectory–it’s just not me. I’ve always been more interested in making sure I like what I do and feel supported and valued at work instead of wanting to hold a particular job.
  • Being library director is still new (less than 2 years) and something I never intended or thought of.
    • Especially when you work in a smaller library, you have to be prepared to step up.
    • When our previous director left, none of the other librarians wanted to serve as interim director, so I agreed to.
    • Eventually I interviewed and became permanent library director.

Slide3

A Little Bit About Carroll University

  • We are Wisconsin’s oldest university. Founded in 1846. 
  • Still primarily a residential campus. Around 3,400 students.
  • Focus is on undergraduate education, but growing graduate programs: Doctor of Physical Therapy, MBA, masters in education, masters in occupational therapy, masters in nursing, masters in exercise science, masters in physician assistant studies, masters in athletic training.
  • About 60% of our students major in the health sciences or life sciences. Popular majors are: Exercise Science, Business, Nursing, Biology, and Psychology.

Slide4

Library by the Numbers

  • Above are some statistics about Carroll University’s library.

Slide5

Small Academic Library vs. Big Academic Library: A Comparison

  • A comparison between Carroll University’s library and UW-Milwaukee’s library.

Slide6

What is a Small Academic Library?

  • No straightforward definition.
  • Generally less than 5,000 students.
  • Overall, I would say a total staff of less than 15 to 20.
  • Comparing resources (like number of books, databases) is harder because it depends if the university is part of a system or consortium.
  • So I primarily look at the number of students and number of library staff members. But your mileage may vary.

Slide7

Flat Organizational Structure

  • Smaller academic libraries generally have a flat organizational structure.
  • Not a lot of hierarchy–simply because there’s less staff.
  • As a smaller library, communication is fairly informal as we see everybody almost every day.
    • The library staff meets formally as a group every other week to share what’s going on.
    • The librarians meet formally as a group when needed. 
    • I meet formally with each of my direct reports once a month. It’s a chance to get updated on projects and to share things one-on-one.
    • We generally don’t handle library business by committee unless it’s for a job search.
    • We currently only have one committee: marketing and outreach.

Slide8

Carroll University Library Organizational Structure

  • Each of our librarians coordinates a specific area of the library.
    • Public/Technical Services Librarian & Archivist: technical services and archives.
    • Teaching & Learning Librarian: research assistance and information literacy.
    • Electronic Resources Librarian/Systems Librarian: back-end systems.
    • Life & Health Sciences Librarian: serves our life/health sciences students because we have so many. Needed a dedicated position.
    • And I coordinate access services (Circ, ILL, reserves) in addition to being library director.
  • I report to the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs. I meet with him formally every other week and then all of the deans/directors in Academic Affairs meet together formally once a month.
  • Most smaller and a lot of larger academic library directors report to the Academic Affairs side of the university. The exceptions are some academic libraries, both large and small, that work under a merged Library/Information Technology structure and then the library reports to a person who often holds a title like Vice President and Chief Information Officer.  

Slide9

Public Facing

  • Regardless of your job title, every library staff person at a small institution is public facing. We have direct contact and interactions with students, faculty, and staff everyday.
  • No one sits in a “back room” — and that’s not a criticism of larger institutions. It’s just daily work life at a smaller institution.  
  • For example, our technical services librarian and our electronic resources librarian – job titles that are often considered “back of the house” – participate in teaching information literacy sessions, provide research assistance, and other library liaison duties.
  • At a smaller residential campus, face-to-face is key. That’s why students choose to go college there.

Small(er) Academic Libraries (1)

You Wear a Lot of Hats

  • For me, one of things I’ve loved about working in smaller academic libraries is that there is never a chance to get bored.
  • Because our staff is small, we do a lot of different things.
  • I’m the library director, but all of us do a lot of things.
    • I oversees access services. Each of our librarians coordinates a specific area of the library.
    • I’m also a liaison to several academic departments on campus. Each of our librarians is assigned to departments to liaise with.
    • I teach in the information literacy program and provide research assistance.
  • Generally, Library Directors at larger institutions wouldn’t do much information literacy or research assistance.
    • I do. I want to see the issues that our students and faculty are experiencing first-hand. And frankly, if I didn’t participate in research assistance and teaching information literacy sessions, it would be too burdensome for the rest of the staff.

Slide11

Other Duties as Assigned?

  • The next thing I pulled here is a job description so you can see the examples of wearing many hats.
  • Last summer, we hired for our Teaching & Learning Librarian position–what a lot of academic libraries refer to as a Reference & Instruction Librarian.
  • I’ve highlighted the different “hats” that this librarian wears.
  • Variety is key in smaller academic libraries.
  • Also wanted to share this because when you are job hunting, don’t be intimidated at what at first glance looks like a laundry list of job duties. It looks daunting, but remember we’re smaller, so you’re not devoting as much time to each individual bullet point as you might at a larger institution. Apply! We need you!

Slide12

Generalists vs. Specialists

  • Speaking of job titles. We can talk about the differences between generalists and specialists.
  • For the most part, in small academic libraries, we’re all generalists when it comes to subject matters and library expertise. We know a little bit about a lot of things.
  • At larger academic libraries, of course, you have generalists, but you also have specialists too.
  • On the left are librarian job titles from Carroll.
  • On the right are some examples of job titles I’ve pulled from large academic libraries like UW-Milwaukee, UW-Madison, and the University of Minnesota.

Slide13

Less Roadblocks, but Less Resources

  • One of the outcomes of a flat organizational structure is less red tape. This is one of things I enjoy about working in smaller academic libraries.
  • If I have an idea, or if another staff member has an idea–as long as it’s low cost, you can try it. If it’s a success–then great, but if it fails, that’s OK too since it’s a learning process. I like to promote the idea of always operating in beta mode.  
    • Example: I was meeting with the library’s marketing committee and somehow we got onto the topic of how we noticed that some of our student workers skip meals or were out of meal swipes.
    • The conversation then moved on to how many of our college students are food insecure.
    • So on a whim we decided to convert an unused book tower display into the campus’s first food pantry.
    • There was no red tape or approval process we had to go through. We’re a small campus, so we know what services are provided–so we just decided to do it.
    • Another example: I supervise our Circulation Manager and we were talking about library fines. Recent studies have shown that library fines aren’t necessarily a good way to get library materials returned. So we did away with library fines. Again, no committee. No having to go up the “food chain” to get things approved. We just did it.
  • The flip side? Less resources.
    • So it’s just Carroll. We’re not part of a system or consortium.
    • We need to have most of the services and resources of a larger academic library, but scaled down to our size.  
    • Example: For library databases, we rely a lot upon databases that are provided to us for free (though paid by taxpayers) by Badgerlink, though the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
    • Then we pay for specialized databases to support specific programs at Carroll.

Slide14

Typical Day?

  • Well there is no “typical” day.
  • That’s not unique just to smaller academic libraries, I think larger academic libraries experience that too.
  • Some of it is just dictated by the cyclical nature of the academic calendar.
  • Here is my calendar for Wednesday of last week.
    • Walk through: We have mostly movable furniture now. I like to see how students have been using it and I like to return everything to its original location so we can start fresh each day.
    • Monthly meetings w/ my direct reports.
    • Taught an information literacy session for the required English composition/writing course that first-year students take.
    • The university is embarking on a new audience & degree program, so there was a campus meeting. Important units like the library, the learning commons, academic advising, the registrar’s office, and financial aid have been meeting regularly to plan an outline for student services.
    • Lunch is always blocked, whether it actually happens or not!
    • Library staff is testing a discovery layer. So our Electronic Resources Librarian hosted a session where we did sample searching and asked questions about search results, etc.
    • I have some open time in the afternoon where I can catch up on email, work on projects, etc…
    • Also when I’m at my desk, just like all of the other librarians, we are logged into the library chat program so we can take questions. About 1 in 6 research questions comes through library chat now. So it’s important that we have multiple people staffing it.
    • Then my day wrapped up with campus emergency planning meeting. I left work at 4pm.
  • As far as smaller academic libraries: Here’s an example:
    • Today when I opened up at 7:30am, I noticed that the door handle to one of the library front doors had fallen off. So the first thing I did was to do a Facilities work order to have it fixed.
    • Then when I did my walk through, I noticed tables in our group study rooms had not been cleaned. So I had to file a Janitorial work order.
    • At larger academic libraries, there’s often a staff member who might do this. At a smaller academic library, it’s you!

Slide15

Who Are We Here For: Students or Faculty?

  • This headline is misleading because it’s not really one or the other.
  • The difference though: Carroll University, and most smaller colleges/universities are teaching-focused–primarily at the undergraduate level. We’re not a large research university like UW-Madison or the University of Illinois or University of Michigan which supports faculty and graduate student research.
  • Our mission at a smaller institution is much more tied directly to the undergraduate curriculum.
  • Here is our mission: “The library services students by providing access to information, maintaining an environment that promotes a culture of academic excellence, offering instruction that fosters scholarship, integrity and independent intellectual growth, and the sophisticated information skills necessary for lifelong learning.”
  • The question we ask ourselves: How can we support students in a particular course?
  • We’re not as focused on supporting faculty research, though we do help when we can.

Slide16

Management Skillz

  • In a smaller academic library, you may find yourself managing student workers or library staff. Even as a first job out of your MLIS program.
  • Don’t expect much formal training.
  • Remember, if you’re at a smaller academic library, then other departments on campus will be small too. Like Human Resources, for example. They may not have a lot of time to conduct workshops on manager training. You are kind of left to fend for yourself.
  • Regardless of whether you are a manger or not, everyone in a smaller academic library has to be a leader. Each of us have a portfolio we are responsible for. 
  • Importance of being a team player: In a small academic library, if someone is not a team player it’s immediately noticeable. It can negatively impact public-facing library services.

Slide17

Why Smaller Academic Libraries?

  • To wrap up:
  • #1: You are here for the students. Without them, the university ceases to exist.
  • #2: You see the impact first-hand: I get to see those light-bulb moments when working with students. And that’s really memorable for me. At small place, everyone gets to know you.
  • #3: Variety of job duties – no chance to get bored!
  • #4: Less silo-ing: You really have the chance to collaborate with people from across campus.

Slide18

Marketing and Advocating for the Academic Library

I was asked to give a presentation for university faculty and staff on marketing and advocating for the library. Below are slides and my notes. This presentation was geared towards an external (non-librarian) audience.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library

I have been asked to speak about marketing and advocating for the academic library.

  • We will walk through how I define marketing and advocacy along with their similarities and differences.
  • I’ll also provide examples of how marketing and advocacy can and should be applied in an academic library context.
  • I’ll wrap up with how marketing and advocacy fits into some trends I’m seeing with libraries and higher education.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-2

Before we get into it, I want to share my working definitions of marketing and advocacy. The two go hand-in-hand, but there are some differences.

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Marketing

Marketing focuses on the library’s current users and also our potential users. For us here at the university, that’s primarily going to be our students, but also faculty and staff, and community users.

It’s also important to recognize different segments our community. For students: it could be undergraduates, graduate students, international students, athletes, a particular major, etc.

For faculty: It could be marketing to their needs or using them as a channel to market library services to students.

For staff: It could be marketing library services like our leisure reading collection or curriculum materials collection. Something that adds value to their university employment.

The goal: Aligning the needs of the our students, faculty, and staff to the library’s services and resources.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-4

Advocating

Advocating is different. It’s all about the influencers and how the library reaches out to them. It’s focused on the individuals or groups that can influence the environment to benefit the library.

In our case, this would naturally include the Provost and senior leadership, possibly the Board too. With all the changes at the university, the library needs to communicate the value we provide to the University.

Influencers are not just top leadership of a university, but it could also be student organizations like Student Senate. The people here may not even use the library (like senior leadership), but they are the ones to make decisions. That’s why we need to advocate using the data and stories we collect to prove our case for the library.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-5

Marketing & Advocacy

So how do marketing and advocacy go hand in hand to create a better library?

Marketing can:

  • Increase the number of users of library services and resources
  • Shape services to meet the needs and wants of users
  • Ensure the understanding of the role of the library within the institution
  • Help users to understand the unique value of the library (Google paywall vs. library databases)

Advocacy can:

  • Increase decision-makers’ understanding of the library
  • Increase decision-makers’ understanding of the benefits to the institution of a strong sustainable library
  • Support changes in policy that will add to the library’s success

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-6

So before I talk about why marketing and advocacy are an essential part of a library staff’s work, I want to do a little activity. 

Close your eyes. Think about a library.

What’s in there? What do you see? Who do you see?

Open your eyes. Use the scrap paper to write down FIRST 5 things you think of when you hear the word “LIBRARY.”

[discussion follows]

I did a similar activity like this, but a very different audience. Last year, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of high school students who were in a pre-college program. As potential university students I thought it might be interesting to get their take on libraries. So I asked them:

When you hear the word librarian, list five things you think of.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-7

So what did we get? Some of the usual stereotypes: books, old lady, mean, shhhh, and glasses.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-8

Then I switched the question to:

List five things you think a librarian does.

Here I got: read, shelving books, checking in books, help people find materials, and doing programs for the community.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-9

Perception Issue

We have a perception issue in terms of what librarians do. It’s very book-centric and focused on a lot of clerical tasks. Above is one of my favorite slides:

What our parents think we do, What our friends think we do, What students think we do, WHAT WE ACTUALLY DO

Now I’m not going to draw conclusions based on working with one high school group, but it’s a little anecdote that I think is worth sharing.

To me, libraries ARE NOT ABOUT THE BOOKS, THEY ARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE – and that’s what we need to market & advocate to.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-10

Marketing & Advocacy

So marketing and advocacy are an essential part of an academic library staff’s work. As we’ve seen, many people have a stereotyped image of libraries based on outdated experiences. We need to update the image of libraries, librarians, and all library staff. We have a responsibility to promote our professionalism and value to everyone. This is particularly necessary in the current environment of technological change.

Decision makers routinely deal with issues like funding cuts and accountability questions and so much more that impact library services. We need to provide a quick response so that their opinions can be informed by professional advice.

Let’s face it: There is intense competition for funding and we must continue to ensure that the value of the library is well-understood and appreciated so that there is a good reason to continue funding it.

To do that, we need to back up our marketing and advocacy with data and stories. And now I’m going to talk about a few of those examples.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-11

Low Key Assessment

One less time intensive project that I like is from library at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. It’s a simple Post-It Note wall. It asks students:

“What do you love about the library?”

“What do you hate about the library?”

It’s an easy way for students to give feedback and an easy way for the library to listen. It keys library staff into unmet needs or services. As an assessment tool, it tells us what we’re doing well and what we could improve on. We could take the a data from the post-it notes to advocate for library improvements or resources.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-12

Library as a Place

In the past ten years or so, there has been a focus on promoting the Library as a Place – on a college campus, that sort of makes the library like the living room. You want to have various spaces in the library that appeals to all types of students. So collecting student data in how they use the library is essential in arguing for additional resources for library improvements.

One example I have here is from a team of researchers, mostly from Drexel University, where librarians started to taking NOT just hourly building counts, but actually SEAT counts–and recording which spaces students were using. Then they devised a heatmap to show where students were congregating. Red/orange/yellow is higher use, blue/green is lower use.

In the left example, students were using solo/pairs tables by the windows. In the right example, students were using the computer pods in the middle.

So based off of this data, library administration could go to senior leadership in proposing renovations or improvements based on space. In today’s data-driven higher ed environment, you need to use the numbers to prove your story.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-13

“Just in Time” Marketing

Another idea I like are these “Library Minute” videos from Arizona State University. Designed for “just in time” help, these videos market library services and resources. It’s a good way to reach current and potential users. They are short: around one minute as the title suggests. Videos can be embedded on the library’s website, their Research Guides, and can be promoted by the university or the library via social media. They have a whole list of short videos: how to access online resources, how to get materials through Interlibrary Loan, and even more complicated issues like open access.

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Kindness Audit

This is another concept I love because it’s undercover marketing to students, but it also gives you data that you can use to advocate for the library. I first heard about in a MOOC I took with Michael Stephens at San Jose State University. 

So what is it? This is an idea that I adopted here. I started with new library student workers, but I also recommend tapping the broader student body. 

I asked students to use their smartphone camera and walk through the library and take photos of:

  • Things you liked
  • Things you didn’t like
  • Things that confuse you
  • Things that surprise you

The goal: Have students assess the library’s physical space to see how “kind” it is. The students find out new things on their own as they explore the library. Library staff can use the data to improve the space.

We used the Kindness Audit data to:

  • Convert our gendered, single-stall restrooms, into gender-neutral restrooms.
  • Add more electrical outlets.
  • Create collaborative open study in the Library Classroom when not being used for a class session.
  • Liberalize the library’s food & drink policy.

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A Sense of Fun

I also think we should market social events that help change that stuffy perception of the academic library. Encourage some fun events, get students involved, and then when they actually need research help they will feel comfortable coming back. Here I’ve been involved with our welcome parties that we did for a couple of years. When I worked at my previous institution, I instituted an Edible Book Contest for National Library Week which was fun.

This past January, we hosted laser tag in the Library, which I loved:

  • Required little time and no money from the library
  • Was sponsored by Student Activities who coordinated the staffing
  • I was happy to offer up our space for the event
  • Creates goodwill among the students
  • It would have been easy to say “No” but I want to create that culture of saying yes and showing the Library off in a different light.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-17

Trends

So I’m a person who always like to see things on the horizon. So I want to talk a little bit about some trends I’m seeing in higher ed and how library marketing and advocacy will be key.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-18

Open Educational Resources

This is something that is both marketing to Faculty, and being an advocate for Students. I’m concerned about the rising cost of textbooks. Students already pay a lot for college and this doesn’t help. I think the Library should be marketing to faculty the use of open educational resources.

OERs are freely available, open licensed textbooks, media, and other digital materials that can be used in the Classroom. There is a lot of high quality content out there, it’s just making the time to search for it and figure out how it might fit into the curriculum that takes time.

The library could host a workshop with faculty in discovering and evaluating resources such as these and maybe start a pilot program where a few faculty members experiment with them in their courses.

To me OER fits squarely within the university ethos with respect to stewardship of material resources and would be beneficial for our students.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-19

Scholarly Communication

This one primarily affects Faculty. The cost of journals continue to rise beyond inflation each year and they are now owned by a small number of multinational publishing conglomerates which can jack up the prices. I think the library should be marketing open access journals to faculty and advocating for university support for faculty to publish in them.

I wish we could encourage faculty to consider publishing in reputable open access journals (those that provide free access online and are non-profit). However, it’s a balance because those faculty members going up for tenure want to publish in a high-profile journal and those still tend to be owned by those large scholarly publishers.

The library should develop some sort of award or prize for faculty publishing in an open access journal. We do get questions from faculty asking for help in identifying journals to publish in, so maybe some sort of workshop or brown bag is in order. But I think it’s the library’s job to promote and advocate for this.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library-20

Experiential Learning

This involves both students and faculty. Usually the library is thought of as a one way transaction: You download a journal article or you check out a book. I would like the library to be a place where students create things. So maybe that’s a makerspace that combines art & technology skills, but I would love to connect with faculty and students on something like this.

For example: We have a 3D printer, but there’s no educational programming done. People submit their jobs to the library and we print their items. If we could design a space that is collaborative and market it to faculty and students as a place to experiment and create things and talk about what we’re doing and what we are learning, that would great. To me, that places the library in the forefront of not just being a repository of THINGS, but a place that CREATES things–and I think that sends a powerful message to campus.

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Marketing & Advocacy

So to wrap-up…

These days everyone’s attention is so segmented. The academic library cannot just expect to exist as it is. We need to reach out to our current and potential users and promote our services and resources. We also need to investigate the unmet needs of our users and figure out: WHAT ARE WE NOT DOING THAT WE SHOULD BE DOING? In doing so, it’s important for the library collect data and stories from our users to paint a picture for senior leadership. The goal is to create a funded library that serves our community of users.

Library Tourism: Seattle Area Libraries

In January I attended the American Library Association midwinter meeting in Seattle. One thing I had rarely done before at library conferences is to actually tour other libraries. Weird I know…so it was time to rectify that!

I saw that LLAMA was sponsoring visits to the library at Seattle University and the Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington–both spaces that have undergone recent renovations. Then on my own, I toured Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington and also the Seattle Public Library.

Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, Seattle University

Seattle University, a private university located just east of downtown, enrolls approximately 7,000 students. Lemieux Library was built in 1966. In 2010, the firm of Pfeiffer was hired to renovate the 80,000 square feet building plus add an additional 40,000 square feet to create a new “front door.”

Owing to the rain and cloudiness of Seattle (I would start to see this as an architectural theme!), the new front part of the library building features a lot of glass and natural light.

Photo Jan 26, 6 38 13 PM

Lemieux Library, Seattle University

The space includes (from an information sheet given to visitors):

  • Library and learning commons with physical and digital information resource access
  • Active learning classrooms
  • Reading rooms
  • Group study rooms
  • Individual study carrels and consultation cubicles
  • Computer labs
  • Learning Assistance Programs for tutoring
  • Writing Center
  • Math Lab
  • Media Production Center
  • Cafe

A few highlights:

Computer area with space for students to collaborate and spread out.

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Computer area, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Group study rooms that can be reserved.

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Group Study Room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Group Study Room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Research assistance from librarians and Writing Center tutors available on the same floor (two separate reporting structures, but co-located).

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Research Consultations, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Writing Center consultations, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

A variety of study spaces

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Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Reading room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Odegaard Undergraduate Library, University of Washington

The University of Washington in Seattle enrolls 40,000+ students. Red Square, the university’s central plaza is home to Odegaard Undergraduate Library & Learning Commons. Constructed in the 1970s, the building is a classic Brutalist structure which (like most of these types of buildings) appears unwelcoming from the exterior. However, you step inside to an inviting space.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Renovated in 2011-2013 by Miller Hull, the darkness of the Brutalism is gone with the addition of a skylight. A large hulking central stairwell was replaced with a more efficient staircase, opening the space up.

The space includes (from an information sheet given to visitors):

  • Odegaard Learning Commons
  • 24 collaboration pods with group work monitors
  • 38 large writeable surfaces
  • 26 booths or nooks for group work
  • 14 side-by-side consultation areas with power & writeable surfaces
  • 21 enclosed, reservable group study rooms with writeable surfaces and monitors
  • Odegaard Writing and Research Center
  • Learning Studio with 30 workstations
  • Computer help desk

A few highlights:

Two Active Learning Classrooms feature team tables, each with its own large screen monitor. Each classroom can seat 100+.

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Active Learning Classroom, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

In the evenings or weekends when not being used for classes, a movable glass wall can be opened, making the space more transparent so students know that they can and should be using the space.

I also noticed booth style seating where students could collaborate on projects. These booths are lettered because they can be reserved.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Study rooms can also be reserved and feature whiteboards, technology, and plenty of table space and chairs.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Research assistance from librarians and writing assistance from tutors are co-located (though still two separate reporting structures, I believe) in the Odegaard Writing and Research Center. A genius bar is set up for drop-ins, or you can make an appointment.

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

The second floor features a large computer commons area in traditional rows, but also in collaborative tables.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

The third floor features the book stacks. This is the designated quiet area and has not yet been renovated. Because the building features a large atrium, doors help to keep out noise.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

They also have a nice marketing campaign!

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

 

Suzzallo Library, University of Washington

OK, I call Suzzallo Library Seattle’s very own Hogwarts. Even Yelp and Tripadvisor think so!

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Suzzallo Library exterior, University of Washington

Harry Potter, you say? Check out the interior.

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Seattle’s own Hogwarts

When you picture the classic library, this is it. Designed in the Collegiate Gothic style, construction began in 1923.

Additional space was added to Suzzallo, and Allen Library opened in 1990. This essentially created one large library building. Interestingly, Allen Library is named after Kenneth Allen, associate director of libraries, who is the father of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Suzzallo Library is now a quiet reading room. I felt a little sorry for the four students who were studying in there on a Sunday afternoon just after it opened. There were more tourists snapping photos and taking selfies than there were students!

Oh, here’s one thing I don’t have to worry about in Wisconsin: earthquake retrofitting the library!

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Suzzallo/Allen Libraries, U. of Washington

Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public Library’s current Central Library opened in 2004. It’s a good example of Deconstructivist architecture. At first glance, you notice the lines of the building are all askew. You might imagine haphazard interior spaces.

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Exterior of Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Inside though, you get a modern cathedral-like feel. It features over 350,000 square feet with lots of glass and light (important in the cloudy/rainy Pacific Northwest!). We’re worshipping books here. Unlike some libraries that hide their book collection, or push it off to the side, Seattle Public Library includes books and media on its main floor.

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Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Escalators guide visitors up to floors with more books and technology.

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Escalator to upper floors

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Central Library, Seattle Public Library

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Technology area

The circulation desk features monitors that highlight books that have recently been returned.

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Recently returned books at the Circulation Desk

Besides physical materials, the library features innovative programming for citizens and visitors. Start with the Seattle Public Library A-Z Programs and Services list to find out more.

The space is open. Because of this, I thought the building would be overly noisy…and I’m not one of the “anti-noise” librarians…I just figured the design would exacerbate that. But it doesn’t. It’s quiet. People can talk at a normal level, but the building overall remains peaceful. Wayfinding was useful. Although getting back down from the top floors is limited to the elevators.

The gift shop is a must-stop while touring the building. Library lovers can’t leave without purchasing something. Can’t visit? Check out these pages:

So who else likes to do a little bit of library tourism? Let me know!