Better Library and Learning Space

Oct 2013 | 304pp

Price: £64.95
CILIP members price: £51.95

eBook (PDF)
How to buy eBooks turqoise_arrow

Share this page

Join our mailing list

Better Library and Learning Space
Projects, trends, ideas

Edited by Les Watson

What are the most important things a 21st-century library should do with its space?

Each chapter in this cutting-edge text addresses this critical question, capturing the insights and practical ideas of leading international librarians, educators and designers to offer you a ‘creative resource bank’ that will help to transform your library and learning spaces. This is an innovative and practical toolkit introducing concepts, drawing together opinions and encouraging new ways of thinking about library learning spaces for the future. 

The book is structured in three parts. Part 1 – Projects and trends describes features of library space around the world through a selection of focused case studies painting a global picture, identifying common directions and ideas as well as highlighting country and regional diversity.

Part 2 – Trends and ideas looks at the why and how of library space, covering topics such as contextual factors, current ideas in library space development, and the creative design of new spaces. It examines how library spaces are adapting to new forms of learning, digital literacies and technological fluency.

Finally, Part 3 – Ideas and futures looks to the future of libraries and their learning spaces, inviting future-scanning contributions from a diverse range of authors, including librarians, learning specialists, academics, architects, an interior designer, a furniture designer and a management specialist.

Readership: This is a must-have text for those involved in designing and developing library and learning spaces, from library and university management to designers and architects. It’s also a useful guide for students taking courses in library and information science to get to grips with the importance of library design.

Introduction - Les Watson



The changing environment

The resource factor

It’s not just libraries

The need for this book


1. UK projects and trends Les Watson and Jan Howden

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Ayr Campus Library – University of the West of Scotland

1.3 The Forum – University of Exeter

1.4 The Hive – University of Worcester and Worcester County Council

1.5 Leeds Central Library

1.6 The Saltire Centre – Glasgow Caledonian University

1.7 Trends

            1.7.1 Open plan space        

            1.7.2 Technology rich space

            1.7.3 Service rich environments

            1.7.4 Service Integration

            1.7.5 Developing learning communities

2. USA projects and trendsMatthew Simon

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Wells College Library

2.3 Carnegie Public Libraries

2.4 Parkway North High School Library

2.5 Delaware State University – William C. Jason Library

2.6 The Alden Library at Ohio University

2.7 Conclusions

2.8 The Information Commons – A Brief History – Matthew Simon

3. China projects and trendsHugh Anderson

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Shandong University of Science and Technology

3.3 Ordos Library

3.4 Wuhan University of Science and Technology, Xiamen Campus

3.5 Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Library, Haxi Campus

3.6 Li Yuan Library

3.7 Trends

4. Hong Kong projects and trendsProfessor Bob Fox and Peter Sidorko

4.1 Introduction

4.2 The City University of Hong Kong Library

4.3 The University of Hong Kong Main Library

4.4 The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library

4.5 The Architecture Library at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

4.6 The Hong Kong Public Library System

4.7 Trends

5. Europe projects and trends Joyce Sternheim and Rob Bruijnzeels

5.1 Introduction

5.2 BK City

5.3 The Bookmountain

5.4 Stuttgart City Library

5.5 O.A.S.E.

5.6 Trends

6. Australasia projects and trendsProfessor Roland Sussex, Professor Peter Tregloan and Professor Philip Long

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Cooroy Library

6.3 Mt Gambier Library

6.4 The Edge, State Library of Queensland

6.5 Queensland’s Indigenous Knowledge Centres

6.6 National State Libraries of Australasia

6.7 Conclusion

Section 1 summary – Les Watson


Introduction – Les Watson

7. Library space and technologyLes Watson

7.1 Will technology kill the library?

7.2 Change we expect – revolutions we don’t

7.3 What is technology?

7.4 Tactics to Strategy

7.5 Technology rich Library space today

7.6 Technology management

7.7 A conversational journey

7.8 Enhancing technology rich space

7.9 Understanding and supporting the library community

7.10 Big Data

7.11 Robots – removing routine

8. Libraries information and learningLes Watson and Jan Howden

8.1 Information, IT, learning and new forms of literacy

8.2 We live in a conceptual age

8.3 Focus on the experience

8.4 What’s happening with learning

8.5 It’s diversity

8.6 Variety and flexibility

9. Key ideas on space Les Watson

9.1 Introduction

9.2 Creativity and experiences

9.3 Spaces that speak to us

9.4 Emotional impact of space

9.5 The third place

9.6 Variety with balance

9.7 Flow

9.8 Open plan vs enclosed space

9.9 Zoning

9.10 Semi-private space

9.11 Creating a 21st century library

10. Thinking it throughLes Watson

10.1 Introduction

10.2 Acknowledge the past – think future

10.3 Space is strategic

10.4 Anticipate

10.5 Continuous thinking

10.6 Insight

10.7 Tools for thinking with

            10.7.1 Imagineering

            10.7.2 Metaphors and stories

            10.7.3 Consult across domains

            10.7.4 Evaluate

            10.7.5 Model the user

            10.7.6 Experiment

10.8 Conclusion


Introduction – Les Watson

11. Beyond space: access is all – or is it?Professor David Baker

11.1 Introduction

11.2 Out with the old; in with the new

11.3 Jisc and space

11.4 Space: the final frontier

Appendix: Key drivers for the University and the Library

12. Thinking inside the box Colin Allan

12.1 Introduction

12.2 Library – an outmoded type of building

12.3 Beware of ICT!

12.4 How to be popular

12.5 Spaces on the edge

12.6 Rooms vs. Spaces

12.7 Circulation

12.8 Designing for people not for books

12.9 Flexibility

13. Nothing has changed/everything has changed – the enduring aspects of learningHugh Anderson

13.1 The limitation of “library”

13.2 Activity-led design

13.3 What can libraries learn?

13.4 More questions than answers

13.5 Extrapolating into the future

13.6 The way forward

14. Books, nooks and MOOCs Jo Dane

14.1 Introduction

14.2 21st-century library space - it's all about value

14.3 Libraries in the age of the 'flipped' classroom

14.4 Putting the library at the heart of the campus experience

15. The researcher’s view: context is criticalProfessor Sheila Corrall and Dr. Ray Lester

15.1 Introduction

15.2 The library and research

15.3 Current provision and usage

15.4 Current trends, implications and opportunities

15.5 Future space and services

16. Libraries in the networked society: evolution, revolution, extinction?Chris Batt OBE

16.1 Welcome to the Network Society

16.2 Libraries in the Network Society

16.3 Evolution, Revolution, Extinction

17. Libraries at the heart of campus lifeGraham Bulpitt

17.1 Libraries at the heart of campus life

17.2 Students, learning and libraries

17.3 The integrated student hub

17.4 Supporting learners in the community

17.5 Educational innovation

17.6 Super-convergence: a strategic approach to working with students

18. The library has left the building - Joyce Sternheim and Rob Bruijnzeels

18.1 Introduction

18.2 The context library

18.3 The city as library

18.4 Implications for the future

19. Beyond analogue: the learning studio as media-age library Dr. Kyle Dickson

19.1 Introduction

19.2 Towards media fluency

19.3 The third literacy

19.4 Libraries and the third literacy

19.5 Toward collaborative thinking

19.6 Support for advanced users

19.7 Building a coral reef

20. 3-D libraries for 3-D smartingJef Staes

20.1 Unintended Consequences, book-based learning creates sheep

20.2 2D-Teachers

20.3 Smarting

20.4 Smarts, the new students, teachers and employees in the 3D-Age

20.5 3D-BookGrowthArt, the art of making books grow

20.6 A vision

20.7 3D-Libraries

21. Learning landscapes, the library and the University of Lincoln: efficiency, effectiveness, expression and experimentation Professor Mike Neary and Sam Williams

21.1 E-Learning Landscapes

21.2 Learning Spaces Group

21.3 The Library

21.4 A case study

22. Viral design: learners building better environments togetherProfessor Stephen Heppell

22.1 The way it was

22.2 Co-consruction

22.3 Listening to learners

22.4 Conclusion

23. The interior designer’s viewVal Clugston

23.1 Introduction

23.2 People centered design

23.3 Our methodology

23.4 Other spatial models

23.5 A collaborative approach

23.6 Community identity and communication

23.7 Conclusion

24. Furniture fit for the future Paul White

24.1 What is furniture for?

24.2 Staff versus the machine

24.3 Front of house minimized

24.4 Managing your total library experience

24.5 Flexibility

24.6 Tables and chairs

24.7 Love to lounge

24.8 My space your space

24.9 Display

24.10 Kids are the future

24.11 Learning Spaces

24.12 Focus space

24.13 Outside – the unexplored asset

24.14 So where to from here?

25. Conclusions Les Watson

"If you are building a new library or examining your current library spaces, this book should be on your must-read list."
- Australian Library Journal

"Informed and informative, Better Library and Learning Spaces: Projects, trends and ideas is an invaluable and seminal contribution to the field of Library Science and is highly recommended for professional and academic library reference collections and supplemental reading lists."
- Midwest Book Review

 "This book is a must-read for anyone involved in planning a new build library, redesigning an existing library or evaluating the use of space. It will be of interest to many disciplines beyond librarianship, including educators, learners and policymakers."
- CILIP Health Libraries Group Newsletter

"Editor Watson, a consultant in technology-enhanced learning environments, gathers 24 librarians, architects, designers, educators, and educational technologists to explore emerging ideas and innovative projects in the design of library spaces for learning. Real-life projects and trends are profiled in the UK, China, the US, Hong Kong, Europe, and Australasia. Trends examined include the learning studio as media-age library, learning landscapes at the University of Lincoln, and library and learning furniture of today and tomorrow. The book includes many b&w photos of buildings, indoor spaces, furniture, and equipment. Its readership includes librarians and LIS services managers in public, school, academic, and specialist libraries. The book will also be of interest to architects and interior designers. The editor teaches at the University of Lincoln."
- Reference and Research Book News

"Better Library and Learning Space: Projects, trends and ideas should prove a very useful contribution to library space planning, in particular for university and college libraries, the main focus of the book...it can be recommended to library managers who would welcome advice on designing 'new library learning space [which] has the potential to excite and inspire'."
- An Leabharlann

"It should be noted that this book is not a how-to guide for planning and developing library and learning space. Rather it is intended to encourage re-thinking library and learning spaces, especially around softer values such as creativity that are much harder to assess. There is frequent reference to creating the “wow” factor in these spaces: this is evidenced in the case studies, but also balanced by considerations of how library users use the space and how architecture and design can enhance or detract from the use of the space, particularly in terms of conversational spaces. Though useful for anyone about to embark on the design or redesign of a library space, it is also useful for librarians to help them examine whether their own library space is indeed a learning space."
- Australian Academic and Research Libraries

Les Watson, well known for his work on the Saltire Centre, is now a freelance educational consultant on library, learning and IT issues. He has worked in education for 40 years as a teacher, lecturer, dean and pro-vice-chancellor and has managed libraries and information services in several organizations. He has considerable experience of library developments, creating, in addition to the Saltire Centre (2006), REAL@Caledonian (2001), tlc@bedford for Royal Holloway, University of London, (2008), and the Fountains refurbishment for York St John University (2011). He was lead consultant for the web resource Technology Rich Spaces for Learning in 2007 and has produced reports for the JISC and EU on aspects of learning, teaching and information technology (IT). He is a fellow of the RSA and Visiting Professor in Learning Environment Development at the University of Lincoln, UK. He can be contacted from his website www.leswatson.net.


With contributions from:

Colin Allan; Hugh Anderson; David Baker; Chris Batt; Rob Bruijnzeels; Graham Bulpitt; Val Clugston; Sheila Corrall; Jo Dane; Kyle Dickson; Bob Fox; Stephen Heppell; Jan Howden; Phil Long; Ray Lester; Mike Neary; Peter E. Sidorko; Matthew Simon; Jef Staes; Joyce Sternheim; Roland Sussex; Peter Tregloan; Sam Williams; Paul White.

1. UK projects and trends Les Watson and Jan Howden

Chapter 1 looks at some recent new library builds in the UK that illustrate current trends but also shows how it is possible to use ‘old’ space for 21st-century purposes by focusing on the activity, creativity and learning of the members of the library.

2. USA projects and trendsMatthew Simon

Matthew Simon writing in Chapter 2 takes a historical perspective and provides a US view that focuses on the library as community and the reciprocal, potentially transformative relationship between the library its staff, members and the buildings. In contrast to other authors in this part he emphasizes the challenge of refurbished space encompassing aspects of the Carnegie libraries from the early part of the 19th century as well as the more recent ‘commons’ movement, which has been largely led by libraries in the USA. He also explores the successful library as an accidental or purposeful creation.

3. China projects and trendsHugh Anderson

In Chapter 3 Hugh Anderson covers recent developments in libraries in China, identifying a focus on the external form of buildings rather than the internal environment. The cultural differences between China and the west are clear in Hugh’s case studies but there is also great diversity in them. Buildings on a grand scale that are there to make a statement are contrasted with ones that reflect deep human values and Chinese culture. What these facilities mean for learning and teaching is difficult to judge but the cases show that there is experimentation here and great promise for new ideas. 

4. Hong Kong projects and trends Professor Bob Fox and Peter Sidorko

In Chapter 4 Bob Fox and Peter E. Sidorko from the special Chinese territory of Hong Kong describe cases that would not be out of place anywhere in the  western world while at the same time retaining and nurturing aspects of eastern culture. These case studies contain the familiar ‘hi-tech’ open plan approach to the library and its learning spaces featuring multiple use spaces, the commons concept, and more recently ‘boutique’ library spaces, with a fit to eastern approaches to study and learning.

5. Europe projects and trendsJoyce Sternheim and Rob Bruijnzeels

In Chapter 5, on developments in Europe, Joyce Sternheim and Rob Bruijnzeels highlight the importance of the library to knowledge-based economies and its role as a source of inspiration to its members. They emphasize the importance of community and the connection between the library space and those who use it, concluding that the role of the 21stcentury library space goes beyond traditional library operations to taking more responsibility for the personal growth and development of the people who use the library than has traditionally been the case.

6. Australasia projects and trendsProfessor Roland Sussex, Professor Peter Tregloan and Professor Philip Long

Writing about developments in Australia in Chapter 6, Roland Sussex, Peter Tregloan and Phil Long have an alternative view of space emphasizing external space and the role of distance in shaping Australian library provision. They write from a Queensland perspective but describe libraries that are indicative of developments across Australia that focus on dealing  with extremes of climate and of distance, and promote a sense of community through the spaces they create and the services that they offer. These chapters and their case studies paint a global picture of library space identifying common directions and ideas, as well as highlighting country and regional diversity.

7. Library Space and Technology Les Watson

In this chapter, Les Watson suggests an approach to thinking about the relationship between the library and technology – the library itself as a technology – and asks what the next stage of this technology could be.

8. Libraries information and LearningLes Watson and Jan Howden

What the library could be is also part of the discussion in Chapter 8, which looks at information and digital literacy, technological fluency and learning. It describes aspects of learning that suggest that all libraries will need to rethink the form and configuration of their spaces if they are to thrive in a learning society.

9. Key ideas on spaceLes Watson

Chapter 9 covers ideas about space, such as its variety and the need for balance and flow. The experiential nature of space and its emotional impact are also covered here.

10. Thinking it throughLes Watson

Chapter 10 describes some approaches and ideas that emphasize a creative approach to space planning and development.

11. Beyond space: access is all – or is it? Professor David Baker

This chapter considers the future of physical library space from a higher education perspective and questions the future need for libraries – other than virtual ones. Reference is made to the work done in recent years by Jisc, though the views expressed here are those of the author and not the organization.

12. Thinking inside the box - Colin Allan

This chapter illustrates how form and space provide ‘a wrap’ for learning environments – intentionally or otherwise – and how it can be improved. The architecture can work much harder to encourage the activity within the space – creating the joy of space and an exciting environment in which to learn.

13. Nothing has changed/everything has changed – the enduring aspects of learning - Hugh Anderson

This chapter discusses how in adopting a fundamentalist, ‘space usability’, activity-led approach to library design one can avoid becoming a ‘style monger’ and free oneself up for a more creative approach.

14. Books, nooks and MOOCs - Jo Dane

This chapter looks at how the 21st-century library – at least in the foreseeable future – will build on the current spectrum of learning spaces to provide students with a truly effective learning environment: a place for books, nooks and perhaps even one for people to engage in MOOCs.

15. The researcher’s view: context is critical - Sheila Corrall and Ray Lester

In this chapter Sheila Corrall and Ray Lester set out their ideas about future models of the library focus on the needs of researchers. Their thinking is informed by their own experiences as both users and directors of library and information services in research institutions, and by debates on future roles for library and information professionals in the network world – a world where automation, digitization and socialization of data, information and knowledge, and disintermediation, are transforming the scholarly landscape. They begin with three reasons why library support for research is a critical issue, and then reflect on the current situation and environmental forces shaping provision for researchers, before setting out their thoughts about future services and spaces for research.

16. Libraries in the network society: evolution, revolution, extinction? - Chris Batt

In his seminal study The Rise of the Network Society, Manuel Castells (2010) argues that the defining feature of the network society is that digital networks become ‘the predominant organizational form of every domain of human activity’, and it is within Castells’ definition that this chapter considers the future for libraries as agents of learning.

17. Powered by learning: developing models of provision to meet the expectations of new generations of students - Graham Bulpitt

This chapter investigates how as institutions seek new ways of working to deal with reductions in funding and to meet the increasing expectations of students who are paying (in England at least) substantial fees, services are being reorganized to make them more accessible and to drive down costs. This integration or ‘superconvergence’ of services has generally been led by librarians, who use campus library buildings as the focus for activities.

18. The library has left the building - Joyce Sternheim and Rob Bruijnzeels

In this chapter Joyce Sternheim and Rob Bruijnzeels explore territory away from the beaten track. When all is said and done, do we really need a building? Can we work without the traditional arrangement of the library? Can modern technology liberate us from that hidebound, passive presentation of library collections? This kind of presentation does not sufficiently invite people to learn and discover, and it is this inviting quality that will be so essential in the library of the future. The chapter explores these issues with reference to two sample projects. The first, the ‘Context Library’, focuses on designing exciting search strategies for the public library collection, appropriate to the different ways in which people absorb knowledge and information. The second project is also about the exchange of knowledge and information but it is organized in a completely different way.

19. Beyond analogue: the learning studio as media-age library - Kyle Dickson

This chapter looks at how the 21st-century library must attend to the participatory culture sparked by digital media and modes of thinking and working together.

20. 3D libraries for 3D smarting - Jef Staes

Switch3D is a chaotic time. A time of crisis. We are moving from a 2D era to an era in 3D. In the two-dimensional era learning was mostly flat. It happened in classrooms, was predictable and came from the urge constantly to improve what was already there. Book wisdom was key. But since the turn of this century, we are moving faster and faster in the three-dimensional direction. What we need now is a total turnaround. We must move from 2D to 3D learning; from 2D to 3D libraries.

21. Learning landscapes, the library and the University of Lincoln: efficiency, effectiveness, expression and experimentation - Mike Neary and Sam Williams

This chapter looks at how The University of Lincoln, UK, is applying the concept of learning landscapes to its built estate. The concept of learning landscapes has become ubiquitous in higher education, encouraging universities to create networks of ‘discovery, and discourse between students, faculty, staff, and the wider community’, with a clear recognition that ‘campuses need to use academic space more effectively as well as efficiently’, built around ‘overlapping networks of compelling places’ (Dugdale, 2009).

22. Viral design: learners building better learning environments together - Stephen Heppell

This chapter looks at user-led designed library spaces and characterizes the best of them.

23. The interior designer’s view  - Val Clugston

This chapter looks at the surge of interest in the design of ‘learning environments’ in the last 10 years, which has stimulated widespread refurbishment and building programmes in higher and further education institutions. 

24. Furniture fit for the future – a brief exploration of library and learning furniture today and for the coming generation - Paul White

This chapter investigates the trends driving library and learning spaces forward from a furniture designer’s perspective. 

25. Conclusion - Les Watson

Creating the 21st-century library learning space currently remains a risky but rewarding activity. It requires a mindset that sees users as producers of new knowledge and understanding rather than consumers of information; takes an approach to planning and development that is both rational and intuitive focusing on innovation; has a view of learning that puts construction before instruction; runs excellent operations to achieve great experiences for users; manages both processes and resources; sees technologies in the context of the technium; recognizes that environments impact emotions; rejects feedback in favour of real-time data; sees the underlying feelings that drive opinions; and values learning above all else. Or in short . . . the 21st-century library is a technology system, which through the activities of its staff and the environments that it creates provides access to knowledge and understanding and engages its community in the processes of learning so that new knowledge and understanding can be created in that community and beyond.

More titles in this category >>