Reflecting the voice of the student. A case study from The Pennsylvania State University using mixed-methods in assessing space

Publication Date14 January 2019
Date14 January 2019
AuthorSteve Borrelli,Zoe Chao,Chao Su
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,HR in libraries,Library strategy,Library promotion
Reflecting the voice of the student
A case study from The Pennsylvania State
University using mixed-methods in
assessing space
Steve Borrelli, Zoe Chao and Chao Su
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
Purpose The purpose of this paper, conducted at Penn State University, is to inform a redesign of the
library facility integrating a Collaboration Commons projected to cost over $20m.
Design/methodology/approach A mixed-methods design comprised of observation, focus groups,
conversations with students, interviews with Knowledge Commons personnel and a UX Café was employed.
Researchers investigated the studentsneed for workspaces and soft-seating.
Findings Findings suggested that students generally come to the libraries with a goal of being productive
and they value the productivity generated by spacious and well-designed workspaces over the comfort of
soft-seating. Students desire an increase in the availability of workspaces.
Originality/value These findings informed facility enhancement recommendations, and have been
integrated into the program statement made available to design firms bidding on the renovation project.
Keywords Mixed-methods, Workspace
Paper type Case study
1. Introduction
The role of academic libraries continues to evolve from that of an information resource
provider to a facilitator of learning. Academic libraries provide information literacy and
bibliographic instruction, expertise in working with information and technology, and with
increasing importance, spaces that facilitate learning by supporting individual quiet study,
collaborative work, technology needs and information access. Students are choosing
academic libraries over coffee shops and other locations as places to study, acknowledging
that the benefits achieved from these services and resources in combination with
being around others with the common purpose of academic productivity are supporting
their academic success (Gayton, 2008; Suarez, 2007).
Students have reported feeling more productive in academic libraries than anywhere else,
spending long periods of time and often working on multiple assignments during their visits
(Dominguez, 2016; Cha and Kim, 2015). Spatial and environmental needs differ depending on
the type of assignment or activity,as such studentsdesire flexibilityin workspaces (Gibbons
and Foster, 2007; Webb et al., 2008; Yoo-Lee et al., 2013). Libraries are respond ing to
accommodate the changing nature of student needs and demand for a variety of functional
spaces by redesigning or renovating existing spaces to maximize usable space for students.
Housing a collection of over 8,000,000 volumes, the Penn State University Libraries serve
approximately 100,000 students across 24 campuses. University Park, the largest of the
campuses, is home to over 47,000 students and is served by the Patteeand Paterno Libraries
and four additional branchcampus libraries. At over 342,000 ft
, Pattee and PaternoLibraries
are comprised of multiple subject libraries and common spaces and function as the central
library holding over 2,100,000 volumes with annual gate counts averaging over 3,000,000.
Penn State University Libraries have experienced increased demand for seating in the
Pattee and Paterno Libraries. As noted by Starkweather and Marks (2005), when seats are
full, overcrowding results in unacceptable noise levels and unhappy students. In Spring
2016, the University Libraries conducted the Ithaka S+R Survey of Undergraduates and
Library Management
Vol. 40 No. 1/2, 2019
pp. 121-127
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/LM-10-2017-0102
Received 17 October 2017
Revised 9 January 2018
Accepted 29 January 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Reflecting the
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