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Academic libraries include college and university libraries. Commonly referred to as research libraries, they are often used by students as a quiet place for study and research. In fact, a survey of students at the University of Notre Dame revealed that the majority of students use academic libraries as a place for study, using their own materials. The same user behavior is common to most academic libraries. As a result, when planning academic libraries, it is imperative for the design team to incorporate quiet, comfortable, and adequate space for study. Since academic libraries rely heavily on collections of print material, as opposed, for example, to the large variety of video, audio, and other forms of media commonly found in school libraries, compact shelving to house growing collections is equally an important design consideration as adequate reader seating.
A. Types of Spaces
There are many broad types of academic library space:
- Collection space
- Electronic workstation space
- Multimedia workstation space
- Viewing rooms and listening rooms
- User seating space
- Staff work space
- Meeting space
- Auditorium or larger lecture space
- Special use space
- Non-assignable space (including mechanical space)
B. Planning Considerations
According to the Association of College and Research Libraries' (ACRL) Standards for College Libraries 2000 Edition, "the library facility should be well planned; it should provide secure and adequate space, conducive to study and research with suitable environmental conditions for its services, personnel, resources, and collections. This library's equipment should be adequate and functional." ACRL provides the following list of questions to answer when developing the academic library program:
- Are facilities provided to distance learners?
Design considerations for contemporary academic library space planning are outlined below:
Kent State University provides access to Worldwide Web resources in its libraries as a service to its users.(Courtesy of Kent State University)
- The space needs for workstations mimic that required to accommodate office workstations at 30 to 35 square feet for each reader. Although computers are commonly placed in any academic library design, space for backpacks, notebooks, and hardcopy research materials is still essential. See also WBDG Productive.
Computer classroom at Marist College's James A. Cannavino Library-Poughkeepsie, NY (Courtesy of Perry Dean Rogers Partners Architects)
In addition to the emerging issues of sustainable design and wiring technology to accommodate modern communications (see Public Libraries: Emerging Issues), digital media, and the space required to accommodate it, is experiencing rapid growth. Digital media resources come in many forms including Internet delivery and satellite technology. Some of the program considerations for media resources in academic libraries as noted in the Association of College and Research Libraries' Guidelines for Media Resources in Academic Libraries are as follows:
- Archival media resources collections require specialized storage and handling. The library should establish a program for archiving media resources, even if housed in a separate special collection. Some media resources may need to address long-term environmental impacts from humidity and temperature.
Increasingly, academic curricula are based on collaborative and group projects. As a result, there is less and less emphasis on traditional, individual study settings, such as long rows of individual study carrels. Instead, academic libraries are developing learning centers, which provide group study rooms and settings, well-supported by access to electronic information resources, hardware tools, and associated productivity software. See also WBDG Productive-Design for the Changing Workplace and Productive-Integrate Technological Tools for flexible design concepts, which are applicable to academic libraries.
Some academic libraries are also implementing wireless communications technologies to allow library staff members to roam through the stacks and reader seating, without being bound to a reference desk, the better to provide support to patrons at the point of contact.
Relevant Codes and Standards
Model Building Codes that may apply include the following (check with local building departments for code requirements):
- International Code Council (ICC), International Building Code
Note: Some states have their own state-written building codes. In addition, some localities have their own local codes. State and local building departments are the best resource for applicable codes.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- American with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG)
- Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)
Also note that the American Library Association Building and Equipment Section has published a guide to recommended space allocations for furnishings, equipment, and resources to be housed in the library:
- Building Blocks for Planning Functional Library Space, Scarecrow Press, 2001
Building / Space Types
- Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA)-ACRL Standards and Guidelines
- Academic Libraries as High-Tech Gateways: A Guide to Design & Space Decisions, 2nd ed. by Richard J. Bazillion and Connie Braun. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 2000.
- Building a Scholarly Communications Center: Modeling the Rutgers Experience by Boyd Collins, et al. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 1999.
- Planning Academic and Research Library Buildings, 3rd ed. by Philip D. Leighton and David C. Weber. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 1999.
- Planning Additions to Academic Library Buildings: A Seamless Approach by Pat Hawthorne and Ron G. Martin, eds. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 1995.