November 16, 2017

NCSU To Develop Design Guidelines for Learning Environments

By David Rapp

Academic librarians nationwide will soon be able to look to North Carolina State University (NCSU) for detailed insight into designing and building different types of “next-generation” library learning environments. NCSU Libraries will partner with the university’s Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) unit and the design consultancy DEGW to put together a model that will be made freely available for other academic libraries to use to help create their own spaces.

The project is made possible by a grant of $313,655 (match: $314,230) awarded in September to NCSU by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The school will start receiving funding on November 1.

Three-part model
The first part of the model would include what the project is calling a “kit of parts” that would describe approximately ten different ways to set up a learning space—though at this early stage, the specifics of those spaces and what the descriptions will contain, have yet to be hammered out. According to the grant lead, NCSU Libraries’ associate director for the digital library Kristin Antelman, examples of the different spaces might be one geared toward an intensely collaborative work environment, or one for quiet study. Others could be a theater area or an instructional space.

Each option would have different space and technology requirements, so the second part of the model would be instructions on how to assemble the different parts for the specific use. The third part of the model would be a “road map” that further elaborates on how the designs can be used to provide services for patrons.

The package will be aimed at helping institutions find the best solution to a given library’s needs. “There’s often a lack of a framework for thinking about how to apply what [librarians are] seeing when they go on site visits or do research—how to apply that to their own environment, how to think through the issues, and make sure they’re asking themselves the right questions,” Antelman told LJ.

On the cutting edge
NCSU Libraries is known for its learning-space initiatives. In July, for instance, it was awarded a $100,000 Library Services and Technology Act grant which it used to purchase a 24-square-foot Perceptive Pixel touch screen for a technology center, called the Technology Sandbox, in NCSU’s main D.H. Hill Library.

NCSU is currently building a new technology-rich facility, the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, due to open in 2012, which will primarily serve engineering, textiles, and other science students.

The new model will draw on that design-process, said Antelman, but generalize it to other academic libraries’ needs. Since most institutions aren’t building a new library when considering options for learning spaces—generally, a renovation is the impetus—there are rigid size or budget constraints to contend with. The project, she said, aims to help institutions to “pick and choose what suits their project best.”

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