One way libraries will remain important in higher education in the 21st century is as places of study, interaction with others, and relaxation; rejuvenating physical spaces in an increasingly digital world. At Rollins we have to build on the work that previous librarians have created in the Olin Library. It is a beautiful building that offers some great opportunities. It should be a destination for students and faculty on campus.
A number of things about the second floor of the library have been floating around in my brain and they recently came together so I thought I should record them and see if they make any sense. Let me know what you think.
This list is organized as though you are entering the library through the main doors.
- If you visit the main library of the Orange County Public Library in downtown Orlando, the first thing you notice as you approach the building is the soothing music wafting from above the entrance. With a gorgeous entrance way at the Olin Library we could do something similar.
- Rollins is looking for spaces like the courtyard between Orlando Hall and Woolson House that can be designed as relaxing gathering spots on campus. The loggia that runs along the front of the Olin Library would be a perfect spot for benches. A lovely spot for taking a study break with friends and wireless accessible too.
- Fire regulations mandate that both the entrance and exit doors be designated as exits as you leave the Olin Library. But both doors are solid wood. If someone leaves via the entrance there is the potential to inadvertently hit a person trying to enter at the same time. If we put glass panels in the doors this problem would be solved and more light would be brought into the main lobby of the library.
- The lobby contains our main exhibit cases, but frankly they don’t really improve the feel of the place. We have some people on staff who enjoy creating exhibits but no one with special skills or training in creating professional grade exhibits and programming that link the library to events on campus.
- Our Circulation services are located behind a rather imposing counter of wood and glass. The glass lets you see a lot of rather messy shelves and workspaces but not to interact with the staff. The wood paneling darkens the whole lobby, and users are funneled into one relatively small space for service.
- As some of the staff in Circulation have noticed, users often come to this desk with computing questions rather that library circulation requests and, because staff are not trained to handle these issues, are sent downstairs to (or directed to phone) the IT Help Desk. The library’s Video/DVD collection could be moved elsewhere and the IT desk moved upstairs (conveniently nearer the labs), physically integrated with streamlined circulation services, and some cross-training provided so that users questions about any aspect of information – the technology or the information itself – can be answered from one location. If we want to get really ambitious we can integrate the reference desk (currently located far away from where users first encounter the library) into this space as well for truly “one stop shopping.”
- This would free up a rather nice space on the ground floor, in what is now known by some users as “the tombs,” for a pleasant group study/conference room.
- The current Bookmark café offers coffee from 7-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Pretty inadequate hours if you ask me. I am working to increase those hours. But I also think that the space can be made more like a coffee shop and less like a library. Warmer colors on the walls, more funky furnishings with a few sofas and low tables, moving the McNaughton books into the café instead of having them block the café from the entrance, adding food to the menu, and scheduling some events in that space and the Bib Lab next door (poetry readings, music, etc.) It is already wireless accessible, so it can be a lovely little cyber café.
- The computing lab next to it is pretty forbidding as well. The IT master plan calls for upgrading technology teaching spaces around campus. Perhaps that space could be next.
Physical spaces are only one piece of the picture. We need to get our services right and our customer service needs to exceed our users expectations every time. But physical space matters. I think what I am suggesting here could transform our users’ experience of visiting the library and, combined with the right services, collections, and customer and educational service from our librarians and staff, could make the Olin Library a destination on campus – somewhere people immediately think of when they think about spending time on campus.
What do you think?