Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More than coffee and wireless

Inside Higher Ed | More than coffee and wireless
For several years now, the talk about libraries as student-oriented buildings has focused on amenities to enhance the visitor’s experience. Students want their coffee and comfy couches on which to chat with their friends during study breaks. Students want to study in groups. And students want to use their laptops, so wireless is key.

None of this, to be sure, has gone away. But much of the buzz about library facilities at this year’s annual meeting of the Society for College and University Planning, in Chicago, had a different focus: adding to library buildings facilities that are explicitly academic, but that haven’t historically been seen as part of the library. Writing centers, classrooms, faculty offices and the like — these are increasingly being placed in libraries, especially those focused on undergraduates.

Some of the same motivations are involved as were evident when Starbucks started to appear in libraries: getting the students in. But the projects being discussed go beyond that to thinking about campus facilities as a means to promote an “integrated” campus (to pick up one of the theme words from the SCUP meeting). Just as student affairs professionals and academic affairs officials agree (in theory, if not always in practice) that they need to work together, so facilities planners are saying that they need to stop looking at major campus buildings — like a library — as serving one function, and to promote a broader vision.

Stephen Johnson, an architect with Pfeiffer Partners, used the plans for a library overhaul at Washington and Lee University as a case study in a session Monday. The firm has worked on a series of projects that aim to show that “there is not just latté drinking, but learning, going on in the library,” Johnson said....

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