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How students are engaging with libraries on the brink of Web 3.0

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User-friendly spaces

Redesigning the library

YSJ has embarked on some remodelling of space to make the library more user-friendly, including consideration of the need for more quiet group study spaces – more clustered and zoned areas for study result in more noise. The quiet reading rooms are not hugely popular; one suggestion is the creation of pods for students who want to work alone, like the old carrels.

Elsewhere in the city, at the University of York, UK, extensive library refurbishment has increased significantly the number of places where students can work together in an IT-rich space, with PCs on desks and wireless throughout.

Integrating services

Elizabeth Harbord, assistant director of information (services), says that the library, IT services and archives have been integrated to make them easier for students to use.

"It's not just a library, it's a learning space with electronic and print resources, part of a package for people to graduate with the right skills for their future careers. Many departments are focused on problem-based learning, including law and medicine. Learning to use information resources and work as teams on projects will improve students' employability."

Case study: University of Huddersfield

At the University of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, UK, space has been the prime consideration in a major refurbishment, moving away from a quite traditional format. Features include spaces predominantly designed for silent study, with some areas designated as group study or quiet discussion with large, heavy tables.

Photo: The mixed study area in the University of Huddersfield library.

The new mixed study area in the University of Huddersfield library

Pre-refurbishment problems included:

  • Discussion areas often reached by moving through silent areas, problematic in terms of transit – students would just keep talking as they passed through the silent areas.
  • Combination of space restrictions and colour use led to areas being quite dark.
  • Subject teams were housed in offices that seemed to discourage enquiries – librarians were viewed as shut away, so students would often seek help from whoever they could find.

But with refurbishment, spaces opened up, creating:

  • A lighter and more appealing centre.
  • Areas with flexible learning opportunities to cater for a broader variety of student preferences.

There are still areas specifically for silent studying, with or without computers, but there are also areas for group work with special desks for students to share computers.

Comfy chairs and sofas are scattered liberally to provide social learning opportunities; most furniture is portable so students can move it around as they see fit, to work together or individually.

Colour schemes have been modified to include brighter shades, and lighting has been improved. Subject offices on each floor have been opened up to create an information point. There is also a large number of bookable rooms.

Despite its overall, huge success a few issues have arisen, such as:

  • Students using spaces as they had done before the refurbishment, even though the purpose has changed.
  • There have been complaints from students who want to access computers to type up assignments, but are unable to because of other people logging on for personal use such as accessing e-mail and Facebook, which is available on 40 per cent of the library's computers.