Our series on college buildings continues with a look at new classroom designs, flexible space, collaboration areas, and the evolving role of the university library.

May 07, 2012

4. RETHINKING THE LIBRARY

As print rapidly migrates to digital, the mission of the campus library is—well, in turmoil. Not all books will go the way of the Encyclopedia Britannica, but that doesn’t mean that they all have to be on library shelves. Many universities are relocating at least part of their print collections to remote storage facilities—some using robotic automated retrieval systems—so that precious library space can be repurposed. Scholars can reserve them on their laptops for later pickup.

At some community colleges and primarily commuter colleges, library space has been converted to lounges and group study rooms, which are lacking at these institutions. “A lot of times, we’ll see students eating lunch in their cars because they don’t have a gathering space,” Mullenix says.

Some collegiate libraries are supplementing the campus computer lab by carving out space for media rooms equipped with large-screen, high-definition monitors and high-end software for video production or other functions that are out of the price range of most students.

“Multi-purpose,” “multi-use,” “reconfigurable”—these are becoming the watchwords behind many university construction projects. As the lines between disciplines blur and teaching methods continue to be refined to meet the demands of today’s online-oriented student, the built environment needs to be able to adjust accordingly. BD+C

         
 

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