The Librarian and the Designer: Working Together to Create a Showcase for Contemporary Learning

The Librarian and the Designer: Working Together to Create a Showcase for Contemporary Learning

Tomalee Doan (Purdue University, USA) and Melinda McGee (McGee Designhouse, Inc., USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2673-7.ch014


Many institutions of higher education are designing spaces that reflect the established correlation between learning spaces and student achievement, mastery, and retention (Hunley & Schaller, 2006). In this case study of a renovation of an 18,327 square foot business library space into a dynamic learning environment, Melinda McGee, the Interior Designer for the project, and Tomalee Doan, the Associate Professor and Head Librarian of the business library, share the experience of their successful partnership that required a creative and an in-depth collaboration with each other and with several other stakeholders not usually found in an academic setting. Their goal is to provide a resource for educators, students, and administrators desiring to create learning spaces that encourage student achievement. Basic design terminology, the role technology played in the design, and the importance of the product manufacturer’s interest in creating effective products for higher education are presented.
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Setting The Stage

The transformation of MEL, a traditional-style library, into a multifunctional space that resonates across campus and beyond, began in 2005 with a focus group comprised of students, staff, faculty, and administrators that was created to develop a student-centered vision for the Management and Economics Library. A white paper resulted from this group that established the goal for MEL to become a dynamic partner with its constituents in increasing information literacy on campus. We wanted to make the space available for all students yet maintain a priority for those whom we primarily serve. The renovation was to be carried out in three stages with only the areas being currently worked on being closed to users. Prior to the initial meeting of the librarian and the interior designer, the renovated space from phase one had already attracted attention. During construction, students continued to be surveyed to determine how they wanted to use library spaces. It was learned that students wanted to use the space for a variety of purposes—quiet study as well as collaborative learning and just relaxing. John Campbell, Purdue’s Associate Vice President for Academic Technologies, observes about the current trend toward reliance on technology:

With each passing year, students are influencing the campus technological environment by bringing in the latest consumer electronic gadgets. As institutional leaders, we must be aware of these changes by talking with students, observing how they interact with the current environment, and anticipating what new technologies will become available. Based on this awareness, institutions should consider new methods of accessing existing technologies as well as new impact on learning spaces. (J. Campbell, personal communication, December 16, 2011)

Technology is clearly a major part of today’s students’ lives as they use a variety of devices—cell phones, tablets, laptops—for a variety of purposes from personal networking to academic research. In order for the renovation to reflect the students’ need to access technology, the Head Librarian had to work with the campus IT department, the School of Management IT department, and the Libraries IT department to make the best decisions about the varying technologies in the space. Such collaboration among University IT units was unprecedented and has developed throughout the course of the three-year renovation into a much higher sense of common goals for the benefit of the entire campus. Learning from how students use the renovated library will help in developing future campus learning spaces. More initiatives are underway as this project has come to completion, and the Head Librarian is now assisting in developing two active- learningclassrooms in Purdue’s Hicks Undergraduate Library.

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