Campus libraries aren't only about books anymore

Tutoring centers, cafes, and makerspaces are all common features of the modern campus library

Campus libraries are being reimagined to provide more resources than just books, Ioanna Opidee reports for University Business

As campus libraries increasingly shift from offering physical books to a greater range of digital resources, colleges are repurposing space that formerly held shelves of books to make room for:

  • Collaborative learning spaces;
  • Technology spaces;
  • Dining areas;
  • Research support; and
  • Other academic services.

For example, the new $117 million Guerrieri Academic Commons at Salisbury University is now the institution's largest academic structure, with four stories of academic and social resources: The first floor is dedicated to research, technology, and IT support; the second floor is focused on collaboration; the third floor houses traditional book stacks and reading rooms; and the fourth floor has an exhibit lab and assembly hall. There is also a two-story cyber café with a 24-hour study and dining space in the building.

When updating its library, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) sought to emphasize flexibility for students to learn in a way that best suits their needs. The library has 29 different types of seating that can be moved throughout the building.

"Students have taken ownership of the building," says library dean Lee Van Orsdel. "They're here all hours of the day moving whiteboards and chairs on the elevator, and we don't stop them."

According to American Library Association President Julie Todaro, the new focus on collaboration has given way to library spaces that promote "cross-disciplinary discovery." At Austin Community College, where Todaro is also the dean of library services, students can take advantage of the "BatLab" makerspace. 

Notre Dame University is investing an estimated $7 million into the renovation of its 14-story Hesburgh Library to increase opportunities for academic exploration. The library's Center for Digital Scholarship features a sound studio, 3D printing service, high-tech classrooms, and a digital research lab. Experts in certain specialties who hold doctorate or post-doctorate credentials have also signed on to help students and faculty use the technology.

Helping students develop soft skills needed in the job market has become another important service for campus libraries, with many facilities providing resources such as writing and tutoring centers, as well as technology help desks. GVSU has an oral presentation lab in which students can develop their public speaking skills for the classroom and the workplace.

Three ways to optimize and reallocate library space

(Opidee, University Business, 9/23). 

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