After CLA in Pasadena I was invited by Carmen Mitchell who I had met at Internet Librarian the week before to take a tour of the new Library at Loyola Marymount University. This is a gorgeous academic library on the campus of a private Catholic college. However, because it’s a new library and has only been open a few short months (in fact, this the first semester) there are a number of the typical new building issues that I’ve experienced and that I’ve heard from other librarians who have had the opportunity to build a whole new library. I’m going to pass over these issues and focus on a few of the great aspects of the library space.
The building itself is an amazing piece of architecture. Built in the shape of a circle, it defies the stereotypical library building focus of straight lines, columns, and rows that I see both inside and outside of libraries. Immediately, it is set apart from many of the other boxy academic buildings surrounding it. The entrance is wide and allows for a great decompression zone that separates the library and creates a defined boundary from the outside world. The design of the building is actually an outside circle surrounding an inner square that contains many of the working features of the library. Within the square are the offices, storage spaces, and working areas of the library and around the outside they’ve create a “Living Edge” with seating and study rooms. In between these two spaces are the books and materials for circulation.
There isn’t much to say about the materials in the library and the way in which they are organized as I felt it was fairly standard. Nor were the staff spaces (with one exception, that I will explain later) out of the ordinary. However, I was very interested in the working spaces for the students that they had created, what worked, what didn’t, and how the students adapted.
As I walked through the library with my tour guide I noticed that the library using the Mac platform almost exclusively. These computers also had Windows loaded on them but every computer was a Mac. Each of the computer stations used large flat screens at angles that appeared to lend themselves for students to work in pairs if need be. In fact, at the reference desk there were two computer screens that allowed the student asking the reference question to see what was being done at the reference librarian’s computer without having to share on screen and turn it back and forth.
The large table workstations and study carrels themselves were one of my very few complaints. The tables lacked any data and power ports and students who were using their own laptops or other technology were unable to plug those tools into the space that they were working in without an excessive amount of effort. The study carrels were small and didn’t allow for students with multiple books, laptops, and notebooks that many students are using for class work. I didn’t notice very many students using these spaces, but did notice the way that the students had adapted to the spaces and created some of their own workspaces as in the photos below.
My favorite feature of the library was the study rooms that were built around the edge of the second floor. These spaces were enclosed, with a table and four chairs designed for group work and students could reserve the rooms online or at kiosks in the library. Also, in these spaces were flat screen TVs that students could use to view many of the various forms of multimedia that is available to them. The walls of the rooms were completely made from a surface that was designed for use with whiteboard (dry erase) markers. These kinds of features seemed to lend themselves for more interactive and collaborative work without being restricted to the size of a standard white board.
My other favorite feature of the library was a staff or faculty workspace. This area contained many of the latest and most advanced research technologies with some of the older technologies blended seamlessly together. The entirety of the walls was coated in the same dry erase material that the student study room walls were made from. There were also a number of projectors and interactive equipment that encourages collaborative work in the space.
Overall I was very impressed with the building. Aside from the few complaints here and there that seem to stem from the construction of new buildings and the uneducated faculty and deans about the uses of libraries in the new millennium I feel that the library is a successful addition to the college campus and has potential to lend itself to many of the changes in the ways that people and students or faculty use libraries that are coming in the next 10-20 years at least.