Library spaces are nice places
by Catherine Szabo
Library staff at Mount Royal University were expected to flex not only their mental muscle this summer, but also to show their physical strength. In response to a number of complaints last year about the lack of quiet study space and designated group-work space, library staff rearranged the li- brary to create three separate zones — quiet use, mixed use, and group workspaces.
“Logistically, on one hand it sounds kind of straight forward, moving furniture around,” said Carol Shepstone, university librarian. “But we had to move every single item in the collection at least once. So we moved — I think the final count is — more than 205, 000 items. It took us a month to move every item. And I have staff with big muscles to prove it.”
The air ventilation system in the space makes it impossible to build new walls, so staff found some creative solutions using furniture instead. New group work areas will re- semble high-backed-restaurant booths, blocking some of the chatter. As well, group members will no longer have to crowd around a single laptop screen — laptop users can plug their machines into a screen at the end of the table, allowing all group members to see the project without anybody developing a crick in their neck.
The rearranged bookshelves are also a good substitute for walls, absorbing sound and acting as a visual outline for the different zones. Library staff are still waiting for signage to be finalized, however. “Students need to understand what behaviour expectations are appropriate for what area,” Shepstone said. “It’s clear for them, it’s clear for staff, it’s clear for security — there’s less need for any enforcement but more understanding of what’s appropriate in these different zones.”
One of the library classrooms has become a study space, and while Shepstone hesitated to call it completely silent, she did say that it would be a quiet work area, acknowledging that serene spaces can be hard to find on campus. Other new additions include bar seating — reminiscent of Starbucks — along the back wall looking into the courtyard, and more outlets available for laptops. There is still some work outstanding, but Shepstone said any renovation work would take place in the evening, or during less-busy times.
“We’re really keen to see if it makes a difference,” she said. “If it actually addresses the concerns students had about not having different types of space, and do we need to tweak anything.” In an email, she added the approximately $225,000 renovation was in part planned by on- site visits to other universities in the United States and Canada, as well as a virtual tour of a university in England.
Input from the administrators of a Facebook group, as well as a student advisory committee was also taken into consideration, both for the renovation and the design of the new library. Last year, the Student Spaces Committee identified different spots on campus which have similar designations to the li- brary zones — quiet, cubicle and multipurpose. Five areas are labeled quiet, eight as cubi- cles, and 21 spots are multipur- pose. The exact locations can be viewed at www.mtroyal.ca/studentspaces.