commons that arose in the mid-to-late ‘90s. These early examples focused on the
undergraduate, and were characterized by improved furnishings and aesthetics
coupled with computer workstations arranged in an open landscape. Service
points were tailored to provide information and technology assistance to
undergraduates. Many of the learning commons reported in the survey are
scarcely different from the first models. The majority reported that they were
strongly influenced by pre-existing undergraduate installations found elsewhere.
A minority of libraries reported modeling their innovative learning spaces on
user-derived data, interviews, and insights.
In the last few years, graduate students and faculty have asked libraries to
provide complementary spaces and services for their research, publication, and
social needs. Libraries have been challenged to consider what these components
should be. The most successful iterations of these
research-oriented facilities are predicated on a
deep understanding of the client, informed by
careful pre-programming assessment that engages
the library, partners, faculty, and graduate students in discovery and insight.
Some targets for these installations are teaching and technology skills;
discipline-focused digital centers; research methodologies and tools; convening
grounds for social interactions, lectures, and exhibits; and support for scholarly
Assessment of built learning and research spaces is sporadic and often
anecdotal. Many libraries report that the most salient statistics are found in the
numbers of individuals who visit and work in these arenas. Formal mission and
vision statements are sometimes lacking. Perhaps the most telling omission is
the dearth of identified learning outcomes that meet faculty aspirations for
students coupled with a nuanced understanding of the principal hurdles faced
by students in their major disciplines.
The following summary of the innovative space initiatives described by
survey respondents is organized around themes that emerged in the responses:
• Collaborations with Campus Partners
• Digital centers
• Faculty and Graduate Student Spaces
• Branch and Subject Libraries
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Learning and Research Spaces in ARL Libraries: Snapshots of Installations and Experiments
C O N T I N U E D
JUNE 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Assessment of built learning and research spaces
is sporadic and often anecdotal.