By Silas Marques, Reference/Database/Off-campus Services Librarian, James White Library, Andrews University
The 35th International Association of Technical and University Libraries (IATUL ) was held in Espoo, Finland, this past June. It was sponsored by Aalto University. The main topic was, “Measures for Success: Library Resources and Effectiveness under Scrutiny.”
My paper entitled “What Students Really Want: Library as Place at Andrews University” was presented as a poster during the conference. The discussion about space in the academic library is a timely issue and has provoked heated debate in the specialized literature. Over the past few decades, many doomsday prophets have predicted the end of the library building. We are living in a time when technology gives greater access to information than at any other point in history. However, any discussion with a librarian will demonstrate that they have a passion for new technology and how it can benefit people in their communities. Librarians have become experts in adapting to technological changes and still remain the heart of the university and any academic endeavor.
In practice, academic library buildings are well and alive, bursting with students, day and night. Librarians achieved this by reconfiguring library spaces to align with the new teaching and learning styles, such as collaborative learning, blended learning, and flipped classroom. These reconfigured spaces acknowledge that socialization is more popular today than ever, but solitude, concentration, silence, and individual study where students and faculty can undergo serious research is also still very important.
The results of my research showed that no matter how you look at it (by gender, program level, level of attendance, survey location, and etc.), students still like studying at the library. The results of ethnographic study, using, amongst others, a design charrette technique, showed that out of the 138 students who participated, 46% still prefer closed or open individual study areas, 18% closed group study areas, 16% open group study areas, 10% social spaces, and 10% interactive learning spaces.
The results of this study could be used by library administrators to make decisions about the services libraries provide for their patrons, especially regarding the distribution and rearrangement of library building spaces to meet the actual needs and preferences of their customers. Meeting customer needs more fully would ensure that our libraries have a place in the hearts and lives of our communities for many years to come, and that’s something every librarian aspires to.