The whys and hows of academic library space assessment: a case study

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/LM-04-2019-0024
Pages28-38
Publication Date13 Nov 2019
AuthorStan Trembach,Jayne Blodgett,Annie Epperson,Natasha Floersch
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,HR in libraries,Library strategy,Library promotion
The whys and hows of
academic library space
assessment: a case study
Stan Trembach, Jayne Blodgett, Annie Epperson and
Natasha Floersch
James A. Michener Library,
University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado, USA
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to advocate for change in academic library space assessment and use
philosophy in favor of a more user-centered approach emphasizing space designed for and by users
themselves. This goal is achieved by analyzing the implementation of a recent space assessment project at the
University of Northern Colorado Libraries to investigate specific patterns of library space utilization.
Design/methodology/approach This paper presents a case study for which data were collected through
a multi-method approach, including flip chart and whiteboard questions, brief semi-structured tabling
interviews, and more in-depth rovinginterviews.
Findings The current library literature on space assessment does not encompass broader, more holistic
approaches to how library space is used by students, faculty, staff and community users. The findings from
this study highlight the diversity of ways patrons may use an academic library, many of which are related to
academic work. However, visitors also come to the library for other purposes, such as socializing or attending
an event. It is imperative that the space be adequately equipped to meet varied visitor needs and to create a
welcoming environment for all patrons.
Originality/value The paper has several implications for planning and managing the operations of
medium-sized academic libraries. It contributes to the larger conversation in higher education about the
importance of user research for enhancing visitor experience through data-informed decision-making.
Furthermore, the project it details is not an isolated assessment effort but part of the librarys ongoing space
assessment work.
Keywords Academic libraries, Space assessment, Buildings, Data, User behaviours, User input
Paper type Case study
Introduction
In recent decades, academic libraries have embraced assessment as a means to gather data
that are used to inform the decision-making process for administrators and service
providers. In a time when libraries strive to meet their patrons at the point of need, carefully
planned and properly executed assessment helps illuminate various aspects of library
operations, including service effectiveness, space use and overall patron satisfaction.
Therefore, space and service assessment has become the focus of academic library work not
only in the USA but also on a global scale. For example, Oliveira (2018) delivered a
presentation on trends in academic library space at a recent International Association of
University Libraries Annual Conference in Bolzano (Italy), while Cha and Kim (2015)
explored the factors that influence studentschoice of space at the Eindhoven University of
Technology library in the Netherlands.
A rapidly maturing area of librarianship, assessment gains additional significance in
light of a host of evolving issues facing academic libraries today. One major change is the
expanding role of the library within the campus ecosystem (Thorpe et al., 2016). Todays
visitors use the library not only for their academic but also personal, social, and professional
needs (Delaney and Bates, 2015). In order to maintain and promote their relevancy, academic
libraries are called upon to be proactive in providing new ways for visitors to interact
with library spaces and resources. In doing so, the question many library leaders need to
Library Management
Vol. 41 No. 1, 2020
pp. 28-38
© Emerald PublishingLimited
0143-5124
DOI 10.1108/LM-04-2019-0024
Received 24 April 2019
Revised 29 August 2019
Accepted 30 September 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/0143-5124.htm
28
LM
41,1

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