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Library Spaces

Research question: (How) do library spaces facilitate innovative research, creative thinking, and problem-solving?

Project Teams

Project Descriptions

Pilot Project: University of Florida

Between 2014 and 2017, Marston Science Library (MSL) of the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries renovated three of five floors, creating new public spaces that include collaboration spaces, a visualization conference room with specialized visualization tools that serve GIS and Informatics, quiet study areas, a Virtual Reality (VR) Lab, and a makerspace that supports all disciplines. The renovations have increased building occupancy to more than two million visitors each year, a dramatic increase in overall visitors from previous years. Despite these successes, MSL has renovated spaces with very little strategic planning involved, and the Smathers Librarians are interested in better understanding how these successes support innovative, interdisciplinary research as well as promote creative thinking and problem solving in the student population.

Ultimately, quantitative assessments (seat counts, occupancy counts, behavior mapping, etc.) tell us how many students are studying and what spaces they are using, but these approaches fail to measure the quality of a learning study environment. MSL and DCP will implement a 1) mixed-method study that includes a full spatial analysis that looks at the quantity of space allocated for each of the four dimensions (group vs individual and public vs private) to identify building capabilities, 2) a student self-assessment in terms of existing space and in terms of ideal space needs as related to creativity, and 3) an intercept survey and focus groups utilizing findings from the first two studies and a student survey to identify real-world use cases related to problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. We will record their interviews and evaluate/code looking for important themes.

Pilot Project: Iowa State University

The Iowa State University (ISU) Library recently developed a six phase, $90 million renovation plan. Phase 1 of the plan will be accomplished in the Fall of 2019, as renovations to the main entrance area as well as all restrooms throughout the Parks Library building are completed. Additional phases of the plan will be contingent on obtaining project funding.

As the ISU library makes the case for additional phases of the renovation plan in the coming years, it will be important to show evidence of the impact of existing library spaces. In support of this need, the library assessment plan will need to include measures designed to assess the impact library spaces are having in support of student achievement and research on the Iowa State University campus.

One emerging library space assessment tool the ISU Library is already using is the ACRL Project Outcome Library Space Assessment. ACRL’s Project Outcome provides an online toolkit designed to help libraries understand and share the impact of essential library programs and services by providing simple surveys and an easy-to-use process for measuring and analyzing outcomes.

While many libraries, including the ISU Library, collect data about their programs and services, what is often lacking are outcomes data to indicate the benefits libraries provide to student success and other institutional goals. Measuring outcomes can provide libraries with new ways to demonstrate their effectiveness beyond gate counts and anecdotal success stories. Project Outcome is designed to give libraries simple tools and supportive resources to help “turn better data into better libraries”.

The Iowa State University library has already begun the process of submitting data to the Project Outcome database for the “space” focus area. For our ARL Library Impact practice brief, the ISU project intends to continue to collect, contribute, and analyze space related outcome data, using the Project Outcome data dashboard.

Pilot Project: Syracuse University

Syracuse University Libraries’ ARL Research Library Impact Framework Initiative Research Team is looking into the impact of targeted academic learning communities located in academic library spaces. The team is investigating impact broadly, from the impact of targeted academic learning communities on members of those particular communities, to the impact the academic library may have on the communities in its midst, as well as how the communities themselves may impact the academic library’s ecosystem.

A targeted academic learning community contributes to academic success by supporting individual growth through the development of research and/or study skills. The community also encourages members to take part in at least one of the following: innovative research, creative thinking, problem solving. Fostering and building an engaged community is an important attribute or goal of the community. Community members self-select, and participation is not limited by the academic discipline affiliation of potential participants.

Practice Brief: Temple University

This practice brief describes research conducted by staff at Temple University Libraries as part of the libraries’ participation in ARL’s Research Library Impact Framework initiative to address the question of “how library spaces facilitate innovative research, creative thinking, and problem-solving.” This research focused on how changes in library space impact the work of staff as individuals, when working with colleagues, and in their work with users. The researchers asked how staff are supported as they make changes in space and how users are supported in that space. Temple had a unique opportunity to explore these questions when they opened the new Charles Library in August 2019; the researchers interviewed staff before and after the move.

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