A phased design strategy aims at long term goals while enabling incremental change now
By Kay L. Wall
The bricks and mortar of academic libraries are seemingly permanent, yet the activities and services they are designed to deliver have been radically transformed in recent years. More change is on the horizon as the digital era progresses and libraries respond to the shifting needs of students and faculty. Libraries like ours, built in 1966, operate in facilities that can hamstring advancement. Even in these difficult economic times, they need to remain relevant.
When it opened over 40 years ago, Clemson University’s Robert Muldrow Cooper Library was a state of the art facility and architectural focal point of the South Carolina campus. Centrally located on a major pedestrian traffic corridor, Cooper Library is open 24 hours a day, five days a week, with additional weekend hours. The 184,839 square foot, six-story library retains its architectural prominence, but it has gone from a quiet study and book repository to the campus meeting place and social hub. The library’s vision and mission reflects an engaged and vibrant service mindset in a forward-thinking university.
With over 1.1 million steadily increasing visits annually from its 19,453 member student body, Cooper reached an all-time high of 10,241 visits in a single 24-hour period in September 2011. It also houses a coffee shop with limited food services, the Academic Success Center, and most recently the Customer Services center for campus Information Technology. A 2009 student engagement survey asked the question, “Where do you hang out on campus?” Cooper Library came in second, behind the dining halls, of which there are three.
This success is what it’s all about, but with demands on the space on the rise and the fulfillment of a major Master Plan project unlikely in this economy, Cooper needed a way to strategically address facility changes. What we ended up with was a Road Map.
The LJ Design Institute held in Greenville, SC, in September 2010 helped reframe our thinking. Architects as well as vendors provided presentations on new construction, renovation, and library products. Architect David Moore, then of Craig Gaulden Davis, presented a study of the Richland County Public Library, SC, designed to address facility issues without adding space. The solutions were based on working within the walls.
Moore’s knowledge of Clemson’s library facility, and a shared love of the school, led us to work with him on a careful study of Cooper Library, advancing the principles set forth in the proposed Richland County reinvention.
What is a Road Map?
When we began the study, we referred to our project by many names—from Design Challenge to Master Plan—before we arrived at the use of Road Map. Abandoning the term Master Plan was essential in the discovery of how to more accurately describe our project for several reasons.
We had developed a Master Plan a few years earlier, but it no longer met our needs. The original Master Plan was an attempt to not only address questions about the current facility and capacity, but to consider new construction, hopefully gaining administrative support for a capital project. Its analysis of existing space, collections, and services was valuable, but it highlighted traditional principles rather than the transformative nature of current and future trends. In addition, it came with an estimated price tag of $70 million. It (tinyurl.com/MasterPlan08) was presented to the University administration October 31, 2008, one week before the economy tanked.
Also, a Master Plan connotes a single project: an all-or-nothing plan contingent on acquiring funding prior to implementation. Given today’s economic realities, a singularly defined project with a large price tag was low on the university’s priority list. That did not mean, however, that we could or should wait to take action. It did mean that we would not be taking on a plan requiring significant funding.
The term Road Map is not a new one at Clemson. Architect James F. Barker adopted it to articulate his vision for Clemson when he assumed the presidency in 1999. It seemed only fitting to adopt the same terminology based on characteristics in keeping with the university’s Road Map to become a top 20 public university.
A Road Map:
• is used to reach a destination, and helps visualize that location. The final product of our study became the destination;
• recognizes multiple pathways to reach the destination. In our plans for transforming Cooper Library, we know that decision points along the way have a serious impact on how and when we reach the destination.
• helps should a detour be necessary. Detours should be expected, and can be influenced by uncertain funding and unexpected opportunities. The Road Map takes advantage of each phase either in a cluster or separately.
• progresses toward the destination incrementally. There is a linear progression associated with traveling, knowing that every step is making progress to the destination. Incremental change is manageable and often more likely to be funded.
• also includes information about the landscape. Thorough environmental scanning is essential to the development of the final product.
Before meeting with Cooper’s managers, including campus IT managers working in the library, Moore familiarized himself with current library operations and facilities, using existing resources we identified (see “Road Map Resources,” p. 34). We scheduled a half-day group meeting with the library managers and a senior architecture student involved in the library’s undergraduate research class to discuss problems associated with the library’s physical arrangement, and desired outcomes from facility changes. After the meeting, we toured and photographed areas.
Craig, Gaulden and Davis associates involved in the study conducted a thorough inventory of library furnishings and evaluated spaces for library, IT, and food services.
Then, drafts of the Road Map emerged. They presented a floor plan of each floor, and proposed changes for each floor, a recommended plan for phased implementation, and the realized gain/loss of either seating or public space. Images of existing furniture types and areas with narrative recommendations provided clarification. The summary pages provided a spreadsheet of current and planned seating, study space, and staff space.
As we worked through the process, we asked for feedback from library faculty and staff on various drafts. The feedback was vital in validating the articulated vision of the library.
As we neared completion of the Road Map, we learned of campus plans to add another building adjacent to Cooper Library and the development of a “green” outdoor space behind the library. Because there was no library access on the south side of the building, we asked the campus planner to review our Road Map in light of campuswide plans. This led to a total reconfiguration of the library’s main service floors in the final draft of the Road Map. While these intervening factors did send the Road Map back to the drawing board, this nimble process allows for such change, and the final product validated the new vision of Cooper Library.
Decisions and the impact on space
Changes in library administration often bring a different perspective, and beginning in 2006 Clemson Libraries experienced changes regarding collections, services, and partnerships. While the decisions had a major impact on the facility, they did not fully address facility planning. Instead, operations were shoehorned into vacated space in an inefficient and disjointed way. Users had no way of finding tucked-away services, such as Resource Sharing. Staff workflow was hampered by distance between units that needed closer proximity to one another.
We faced a growing need to proactively respond to the changes in the institution, both current and future. Among the changes we experienced since 2006:
• The service points and staffing were consolidated and moved to upper floors. Reserves and Media were integrated into the Circulation Unit.
• We moved to selective federal depository rather than shared regional depository, providing opportunities for selective review of documents for retention.
• The 2009 installation of high-density shelving on the first floor of Cooper Library cleared the second floor of collections and created space for seating. While students were pleased with the increased seating, the areas are a sea of tables and do not meet the great need for quiet study space.
• The library and campus IT customer support embarked upon a partnership to relocate their services to Cooper and create a Learning Commons in 2010. The only available space was gained through the relocation of Reserves/Media and the installation of high density shelving for IT customer support. Three other IT service points were scattered throughout the library.
• The move of offsite storage to a larger facility enabled us to relocate more collections and fostered digital initiatives located in Cooper Library.
While dealing internally with these changes without a reasonable course of action was difficult, external forces had an even greater impact on the library. The University’s Academic Success Center, established in 2000, was designed to enhance student learning. It provides academic coaching, an introductory course for college life, tutors, supplemental instruction, and support for academic recovery. As an important library partner, it became a “temporary” library tenant, for a stay of nearly ten years. With its departure to a nearby facility, a sizeable chunk of space was made available for repurposing in Cooper Library. Our limited, fragmented response to change up until then reminded me of the adage: if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Not only did we not know which road to take, but we did not have a recognized destination.
|ROAD BUILDING A look at how just one phase affects the whole building gives a sense of the interchange of space considerations undertaken in the Road Map, with color coding to identify
major initiatives for each impacted area.
The final Road Map
The Cooper Library Road Map, completed August 8, 2011 (ow.ly/7j01E), provides a brief narrative summary from the initial meeting, plans of each floor with a description of units represented, and a recommended strategy to achieve the desired changes.
Each floor is described with a summary of the types of seating, tables, classrooms, and public spaces gained. This information is also summarized in a final table, with associated percentage increases noted. Our study yields a substantial increase in the types of seating and spaces student demanded. The final part of the study’s summary analyzes staff space. Those units and functions remaining in Cooper retain the same amount of space, but it is more efficiently used to provide opportunities to enhance workflow and consolidates common staff work areas.
What is not in the plan: a price tag! That is important for several reasons. As opportunities arise and are handled incrementally, pricing in concert with campus facility operations occurs. In difficult economic times, incremental funding is more likely than any other. Even as the Road Map was completed, for example, Cooper Library was given $200,000 in renovation funds for 2011–12. With a responsive plan in hand, we began with one of the first dominos to fall in the Road Map, realizing an immediate benefit of the planning process.
We shared the Road Map with library staff through an open house event with large floor plans available so staff could walk through the changes on each floor. There was genuine excitement that the Road Map was a realistic approach we could observe. Others to review and/or receive a copy of the Road Map included the campus planner, the library’s advisory committee, the campus facilities personnel, the academic deans, student government, and the university administration.
Pros and cons
While the downsides of the Road Map study were few, they were still very real. Staging for each incremental step can and will change from the static snapshot taken at the start of the process. Because libraries and university campuses are indeed more fluid than we want to think they are, we have to be alert to the changes around us that may have an impact on the Road Map. Such has been the case as we hear rumors of new facilities, and take into account other factors, includeing increased enrollment and changes in the curriculum. We learned our lesson when we didn’t have the full picture of changing campus plans and their impact on the library.
On the upside, while the Road Map’s primary purpose is to guide us internally through the hundreds of small decisions over a period of years, it is also an opportunity to communicate with administration and campus planners about the library’s planned destination. It is not only a tool for warding off potential space grabs, but it also demonstrates a cost-efficient way to make the library a better place without increasing its size.
At the same time, the Road Map provides a construct for remaining nimble as opportunities arise and as external forces both on campus and in the profession affect the library. Indeed, a nimble plan allows us to fit more strategically with university initiatives. This proactive strategy also provides avenues for fundraising through the creation of spaces that can be named for a donor.
Mostly, though, the Road Map helps us maintain our focus on the library as a learning lab and meeting place for Clemson students, reinforcing our desire to be relevant in the life of the university. With Road Map in hand, we can respond quickly and feel confident that each decision is part of a larger plan.
|Kay L. Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Dean of Libraries, Clemson University, SC|
By David R. Moore II
In trying to anticipate the needs for a future facility, one thing can be certain, something will change. A new trend or technology will evolve, a space will not work as originally thought or intended, and so on. Whatever the case, by eating the elephant one bite at a time, a Road Map allows for adjustments to take place along the route; thus maintaining the most important feature of the future library—flexibility.
While both Master Plans and Road Maps offer a final vision for the library’s long term future needs, the Road Map approach is born from recognition of the need to work in an existing space and eliminate any current inefficient and underutilized space as the library moves forward on the plan. Often, these inefficiencies are hard to recognize for those working daily in a space because they tend to develop gradually over time.
The inefficiencies and underutilizations that develop over time are due primarily to the following factors:
Furniture Miscues —using furniture in ways that it was not designed for, using furniture that is available instead of what is best, and keeping outdated and donated pieces that do not work.
Departmental Creep —as the need for more staff space grows, space is assigned by what and where it is available regardless of whether it is in the right place or the right size.
Collection Evolution —as collections expand and contract, space in these areas are being asked to accommodate impact they were not initially designed for.
Accessing Technology —where we place technology is often driven by the facility’s limitations for power and data, becoming the proverbial tail that wags the dog.
Introduction of Outside Influences— sometimes libraries are asked to find space for related departments such as writing labs, academic support space, media instruction, or IT services that the building was not designed to accommodate.
Trend Adaptation —libraries continue to adapt to latest interior trends such as café’s, stores, etc., usually reconfiguring space in a series of isolated events.
Pack-Rat Syndrome —too often libraries store items that will never be reused, taking up otherwise valuable space.
Over time these dynamics can lead to a library that looks and feels full but is inefficient and underutilized. The Road Map begins with a programmatic list of what additional elements are needed in the future library (i.e., a building program), but also a list of what isn’t working and what is missing. This assessment of the existing facility, accompanied by an inventory of the existing furniture and critical spaces, often reveals where a library has too much of something not needed and too little of what is.
On the ground at Clemson
In Clemson’s case, through a series of interactive, participatory charrettes (on-site design meetings) involving the library staff and architect, a new vision for every floor of the library was created. With clear and contrasting pictures of what the existing arrangement for each floor was and what it ultimately needed to be, the Library’s Map had origination and destination points, but no specific routes. Had the process ended there, Clemson would have had another Master Plan only.
What happened next made this effort different.
The team devised a phasing strategy, enabling the Road Map’s implementation through small incremental steps. These steps were designed to be small enough to be performed by university personnel and staff, utilizing smaller funding amounts over a longer period of time. This gave the library steps that could be implemented almost immediately, creating momentum and a sense of purpose for the staff. When implementing each step, the staff can do so with confidence that they are not continuing in a piecemeal fashion that contributes to more inefficiency. Also, not insignificantly, the Road Map was organized to allow the library to remain open throughout the process.
Architects who understand libraries can bring a fresh and objective perspective to how space can be reconfigured to maximize and benefit the library. With a Road Map, libraries can begin transforming now, but in a gradual, methodical, and sustainable way. And, despite economic pressures, librarians can begin to make the most of their facilities instead of continuing to make do!
|David R. Moore II, AIA, ALA, LEED AP BC+C, worked with Kay Wall on Clemson’s Road Map while leading Craig Gaulden Davis’s Library Design Studio. Based in Greenville, SC, he now continues his work with libraries with, McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture|
To Clemson’s credit there was a robust cache of data to inform the Road Map. In the last several years, the library and the university have gathered information, conducted surveys, and held several planning and listening events for directing our future. Analyzing the data and identifying relevant trends helped the Road Map coalesce. Some of these resources were:
Master Plan As mentioned, the 2008 Master Plan provided a foundation for developing ideas and streamlining staff workflow. It served as a test for some earlier assumptions about Cooper Library, including the installation of high-density shelving a few years earlier. The installation was a success, and the right decision for the time. At the same time, it reinforced that numerous suppositions about collections were no longer valid as we planned for the future.
Student research The University’s program for undergraduate research, called Creative Inquiry, provided us with an important link to the student population. The Library of 2015 (LIB299) was a two-semester study with nine students from various majors who researched the question, “what should Cooper Library be like in 2015?” Several students identified trends in academic libraries, and others analyzed national library services, but the majority of the Creative Inquiry Team’s work focused on Cooper Library. A strategically placed, low-tech bulletin board provided a platform for responses to weekly questions—and was a resounding success. Questions ranged from “Why are you in the library today?” to “Which of these sample chairs do you like?” The Creative Inquiry class also conducted a service satisfaction survey that provided further feedback.
University planning During this same time period, the university launched a campuswide planning effort, providing a vision for the year 2020. It was completed in the summer of 2010 (see it at www.clemson.edu/2020). Each area of the university responded to a series of questions to guide its future. See www.clemson.edu/library/lib_overview/plans.html for the library’s 2020 planning document.
LibQUAL+ Other resources used during this time included participation in LibQUAL+ (www.libqual.org), developed by the Association of Research Libraries, to explore users’ opinions of service quality. In our fourth instance of conducting LibQUAL+ we experienced a record number of 862 respondents to the spring 2011 survey. Generally speaking, the results yielded a high satisfaction with library services and significantly lower satisfaction with facilities.
Collection considerations Broader decisions regarding collections and associated space had an impact on the Road Map’s development. On April 15, 2010, Clemson University changed its Federal Depository Library status from a shared regional to a selective depository. No longer under the same retention mandate, the Road Map addressed a 50 percent reduction of the government documents collection. With a planned move and expansion of the library’s off-site storage facility imminent, the Road Map included the availability of additional collection space elsewhere. Other collection considerations included increased conversion of print titles to electronic, decreased monograph funding, the use of patron driven acquisitions to generate purchasing decisions, and a thorough serials review resulting in the cancellation of 224 print titles, many of which remain available as ejournals or via aggregators.-Kay Wall