There is a way to renovate a university library and keep all—well, most—stakeholders pleased without compromising progress.
When tackling a major library renovation, one of the primary challenges is balancing the different priorities that different kinds of users have for the space, Teresa Watanabe writes for the Los Angeles Times.
Students at the University of California, Berkeley, for example, told library staff they aren't that interested in the physical books.
"In the spirit of challenging the status quo, why is this library filled with dusty books no one looks at and I can't get a study space," said one student. Instead, students wanted more room and tools for collaboration and study, such as private areas and white boards.
Ultimately, the school decided to relocate 135,000 books to off-campus storage facilities. The move created more than 12,000 additional square feet of areas designed for specific uses. For example, the fourth floor is called "Buzz," because it is where students are allowed to collaborate and brainstorm together without having to be quiet.
But if you go up one floor to "Hush," you must study in silence. The geometric wall on the fifth floor helps keep the floor quiet, and a wellness room there allows stressed, exam-approaching students to briefly retreat to darkness and solitude.
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But relocating physical books can frustrate faculty who use them and associate them with the feeling of a library. To accommodate growing student enrollment—and subsequent demand for study space in the library—the University of California, Santa Cruz removed 80,000 books from one of the institution's libraries. But the change prompted complaints from faculty members. Even though the library made the books available online and via interlibrary loan, Richard Montgomery, a math professor at UC Santa Cruz, said the ability to just "browse for ideas" was gone.
At Harvard University, library administrators ran into similar challenges and found a compromise: they now keep 50,000 books in the basement instead of off-campus.
But UC Berkeley librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason says print materials are still highly relevant in today's digital age. For example, he points out that high-quality online resources are still concentrated in relatively few languages, whereas the library has print materials that span more than 200 languages (Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 4/19).