Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Positioning Collegiate Libraries for the Future: Creating a Distinctive Commons Learning to Meet Student Population Needs

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Positioning Collegiate Libraries for the Future: Creating a Distinctive Commons Learning to Meet Student Population Needs

Article excerpt

A community college library uses existing funding to renovate for community space, while simultaneously positioning it for integration within a currently unfunded master planning process.

The author wishes to recognize the contributions made to this article by Sue Pruchnicki, principal, Bond Architects, and John Furlong, senior manager, Library and Media Services, St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley Campus Library.

To many academics, the library is the heart of the college campus, serving as a concrete symbol of the institution's mission. However, given the growth of digital resources, many of today's students conduct academic research from their personal computers rather than from the library. In the current environment of constant cost cutting, university libraries are realizing that they cannot afford to be seen as warehouses for printed materials. To stay relevant, academic libraries must evolve to meet students' needs and lifestyles. As a result, they are increasingly aiming to provide resources not offered elsewhere on campus; namely, flexible and technology-rich spaces that foster collaborative styles of learning.

University libraries cannot afford to be seen as warehouses for printed materials.

Today's colleges and universities are seeing decreasing numbers of traditional college students and thus must be more creative in recruiting students in this competitive environment (Van Der Werf and Sabatier 2009). Recent research has shown that the library ranks second in terms of facilities important in the college selection process, ahead of recreational facilities, student centers, and technology buildings (Association of College and Research Libraries 2010). An improved library can be a differentiator for a campus, and making a long-term commitment to the library can work as an important recruiting tool.

With a focus on a specific student population's needs, Bond Architects partnered with the St. Louis Community College (SLCC)-Florissant Valley campus library director and staff to understand the college's unique demographics and develop a vision for its academic library of the future--one that seeks to create a collaborative and flexible resource as useful to the students of 2020 as it is to those of today. Taking cues from interviews with library staff, the planning team was able to tailor the programmatic elements of the typical learning commons to the unique needs of the SLCC-Florissant Valley community and the David L. Underwood Library facility. The result of this collaboration was a set of recommendations for both the short-term and long-term implementation of a student-centered learning commons within the existing library.

THE EDUCATION REVOLUTION

To prepare students for an increasingly competitive job market, colleges are offering more career-oriented classes. Passive, lecture-style learning is making way for constructivist, active learning, and problem solving is emphasized over rote memorization of facts. In addition, a focus on interdisciplinary team work has made learning a more social event: "More assignments reflect and teach real-world knowledge economy skills: collaborating in pairs, small groups, and teams" (360steelcase.com 2010, p. 25).

The design of educational spaces is beginning to change to support this shift. Today's ideal classroom features a small, mobile teacher work station; lightweight, reconfigurable work surfaces; multiple projection or monitor screens; and interactive whiteboards for collaborative learning. It is also outfitted with the latest technology, including wireless connectivity, programmable lighting scenes for various teaching configurations, cameras and speakers, and plenty of power receptacles. Often, new educational buildings are planned to incorporate small group spaces where students can meet either during or after class.

However, many educational facilities are not keeping up with these trends: "The majority of classrooms in use today were built for traditional, 'chalk-n-talk' pedagogies and passive learners, not for today's active learning approaches" (Steelcase Education Solutions 2011, p. …

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