Flex space: Two new library spaces designed to meet needs of today’s students


Mardigian Library Students study in Mardigian Library’s Learning Commons, a new space designed to offer more flexibility to meet student needs.

Two newly renovated spaces in Mardigian Library were designed to put more flexibility into the nearly 35-year-old library. The Learning Commons and the Active Learning Classroom were ready for the campus to use this fall.

When deciding how to best utilize the areas, university staff—Library, Facilities Planning and ITS—looked at learning trends, student suggestions and other academic libraries.

Barbara Kriigel, Associate Director of User and Technical Services, said the campus has responded very positively to the new spaces—and the library plans to continue to provide the best environments to all types of learners.

“When the library was designed in the 1970s, people were used to only having a quiet place to study. This is no longer the case. Trends show that people like a variety—an interactive group study space, a table area that allows for quiet interaction, and a solitary desk area. Because of the variety of learners we have, the university is looking for the best ways to accommodate each.”

The Learning Commons
Kriigel, who was on the renovation committee for the nearly 4,000-square-foot Learning Commons area, said options for the space were researched for nearly two years. And the library will continue to evaluate how students are using the spaces now that the areas have been transformed.

For example, in the Learning Commons area, a variety of seating areas were chosen. There are benches with tables in the middle, curved couches, adjustable chairs around a kidney-shaped table with a built-in monitor and more. Additional electrical outlets—for computers, tablets and phones—were also added. The variety is in place to see what students like best.

“We are looking at how the new areas are used, what’s being used and ultimately how things hold up over time,” Kriigel said. “When the library is up for a major renovation, we want to make sure that we include what our students need in their study and learning environments.”

Active Learning Classroom
The 1400-square-foot Active Learning Classroom, which is for faculty use and can accommodate up to 40 students, includes two large 84-inch monitors and seven smaller monitors for group breakout areas.  And the technology is interactive and wide-reaching—content from any of the screens can be broadcast on all screens by the faculty.

Office of Facilities Planning Project Manager Emily Hamilton said the Active Learning Classroom space will serve as a laboratory for how teaching and learning happen on our campus.

“There has been much research into the benefits of active learning, and we are excited to provide a space that encourages a movement in that direction across campus,” she said of Library room 1212.

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