Refreshing Your Academic Library

February 1, 2016 / by Lindsay Mullen


Does your library need a makeover?

Whether your academic library is an ultramodern feat of architecture, like the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago, or a stately and ancient library, like Merton College Library at Oxford (in operation since 1373), you might be in need of a little spring cleaning. How can you make sure your library is modern in design and function and laid out in a way that makes sense for students today?

In this blog, we’re taking a look at some ways to make sure your library space can stay up-to-date and to meet the needs of all students. Some are easy fixes, while others may require a little more elbow grease. Read on:

Integrate technology throughout the space.

We’ve talked before about the magical place that is the James B. Hunt Library at North Carolina State University... but it’s worth bringing it up again. The library is the home of bookBot, a massive automated delivery system that will scan and deliver any title in the library’s two million volume collection in just a few seconds. But the library doesn’t just stop at Bookbot when it comes to integrating insane technology throughout its space: there’s a game lab for designers and developers that looks like something out of The Matrix with high-definition visualization labs and 3-D printers throughout.

You don’t have to have $115 million lying around to make some tech upgrades to your library. Start small: over spring break, upgrade any software that’s fallen out-of-date. Back up any computer data to free up space for next semester’s projects, and take stock of where you can save money to invest in tech upgrades like new computers or new programs.

Think psychological.

It may initially remind you more of a still from “Hotline Bling,” but the soft red light and geometric shapes of the University Library of the University of Amsterdam is specifically designed to make students feel at home in the space. Apart from the super-futuristic collection room, where students can pick up books in their very own red crates, the library takes care to make students feel like they’re in the coolest home in the world. Study areas include kitchen-style tables for students to congregate around and tree stumps for seating. The resulting space is open and comfortable, the kind of place that stimulates students’ imaginations and creative thinking. What better thing for a library to do?

If your library isn’t quite up to emulating a Drake video every day (or a James Turrell light sculpture) don’t worry: there are more subtle ways to stimulate student creativity and learning. Consider swapping out your old blinds for something that lets in a little more sunlight during the day, or add some more blue to your reading rooms—it’s been shown that blue calms people and helps them focus.

Think environmental.

Even if you don’t have the OMG-worthy views of the Klarchek Information Commons at Loyola University Chicago, you can still take inspiration from the library’s commitment to sustainability. The Loyola University library staff worked with German firm Transsolar KlimaEngineering to establish new, sustainable technologies for their space and integrated them into the building. As a result, this LEED Silver building achieves a 52 percent energy reduction below minimum requirements.

While we can’t all be the librarians of buildings that have an entirely glass facade facing into the majestic shores of Lake Michigan, we can still take similar steps to the Klarchek Information Commons to lower our environmental impact. Open the windows on warm days to increase airflow and decrease air conditioning bills and close blinds during the coldest days to keep heat in. And while a couple of plans strategically placed around a small indoor fountain may not exactly be the Chicago lakefront in winter, it’s a start.

Want to learn more about the awesome innovations happening in libraries across the nation? Look no further than our case study, 9 Innovations Shaping Academic Libraries.

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Topics: Higher Ed

Lindsay Mullen

Written by Lindsay Mullen

Lindsay Mullen is CEO of Prosper Strategies, working behind the scenes to support the Mango team's world of lovable language learning. A language aficionado herself, Lindsay oversees a team of marketers fluent in public relations, content development and strategy (and they speak some German, French, Spanish and Chinese as well.)

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