University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Kaya van Beynen, M.Sc., M.A., Reference and Instruction Librarian
Patricia Pettijohn, MLIS, Head, Collection Development and Technical Services
Marcy Carrel, MBA, MLIS, Reference and Instruction Librarian
USF St. Petersburg has experienced substantial growth as we
evolve from a regional campus in a university system, to a
separately accredited institution within that system.
From 2004 to 2008, the number of students increased by 18%.
The Nelson Poynter Library of
the University of South Florida
Saint Petersburg is a mid-sized
academic library overlooking
Built in 1996, the library has
three floors and a total of 80,000
square feet, of which 54,000 is
The most prominent
architectural feature is a large
atrium when visitors first enter
The General Value Principle (Bitgood, 2006)
Visitors to public spaces unconsciously weigh the perceived or
actual costs against the perceived benefits to guide their
interaction and movement choices.
The Economy of Movement Principle (Bitgood, 2005)
People tend to walk on the right and turn right when
confronted with a choice in order to reduce their effort (by
limiting the number of steps)
Only when presented with a desired leftward destination, do
people veer left and cut across to their destination, and
backtracking is rare.
Over the course of a week, random samples of visitors
entering the library were observed for 5 minutes. For each
observation, the researcher mapped the path, stopping
location(s), and activities of the visitor.
Each observation period was followed by a focus group asking
students about building use, barriers to use, and their ideas
about library re-design.
After each research cycle (observation and focus group)
changes were made to the library environment. Repeating the
cycle of research following each redesign allowed us to observe
how these redesigned spaces were used, while focus groups
allowed us to get direct feedback on design changes.
Observation was conducted 3 times over the course of a year
(2007-2008). A total of 624 library visitors were observed,
representing 7% of the total library visitors during the
Three focus groups were conducted, with a total of 21 students
Most frequent first stops
Computer commons (28.5%)
Reference Desk (6.5%)
Current periodicals (4.3%)
45% of visitors made 1 stop only
41% made 2 or 3 stops
14% made 4 or more stops
The number of stops per visitor increased dramatically
during the 3rd observation
Using (such as the computer, printer, etc) – 52%
Asking for Help (at the service desks)– 10%
Laptop use – 3%
Socializing – 9%
The level of socializing declined significantly during the 2nd
observation week (OW2)
(OW1 -10%; OW2 -5%; OW3 – 10%)
Observation week 2 coincided with many midterm
examinations and was just before spring break.
Browsing – 13%
The percentage of browsing stops increased steadily over
the 3 observation weeks
Visitors with 4 or more stops were much more likely to
directly engage with a library display. These individuals
accounted for 52% of all Browsing or Reading activities
Reading – overall 9%
Only 2% of visitors read during Observation week 1
This jumped to 15% during Observation week 2 (midterms)
Reading activities remained high during OW 3 at 10%
Visitors with 4 or more stops
Driven visitors – A clearly
defined purpose; efficient
Nesting visitors – Planned for
an extended stay; rearranged
their space and made themselves
Waiting visitors – Wandered or
browsed; chatted or texted until
joined by fellow visitor.
Browsing visitors – Seemed to
lack a definitive goal; took their
time looking at the displays.
Searching for Quiet Space
Subgroup 10% of visitors who went directly upstairs
Public areas of 2nd and 3rd floors include the circulating
collection, study carrels, work tables, and private study rooms
Area generally quiet
Either want a book or a quiet place to study
Focus Group Results
Students told us they wanted more electrical outlets for
laptops, comfortable chairs, group meeting spaces, and
They liked the library’s natural lighting and believed the
library atrium was an ideal place on campus to meet
They also indicated that they generally did not notice
Modular mobile displays
added to exhibit area
Current events displays –
engaged ROTC students
Situated along natural
Students in focus groups
reported not wanting to
touch the book displays – in
response added signage to
Mobile new books cart
Moved to 2 different
Final location near the
library entrance to increase
Increased visitor browsing
and reading of New Books
based on # of stops and
focus group comments
Laptop Bistro: (the space before)
• Under-utilized space located near library entrance.
• Insufficient electrical outlets to meet student laptop use.
• Obstructed views created by the current periodical shelves.
After (electrical outlets for laptops, natural light)
• Area now a defined destination with a clear purpose
• Increased electrical outlets for laptop use
• Emphasizes the spaces’ attributes (natural light and easy visibility)
Poynter Presentation Corner (the space before)
• Lovely view, but underutilized by students.
• Peripheral location - furthest area from the service desks, obstructed views
facilitated inappropriate behavior.
• Weeded 10,000 journal issues and removed 5 ranges of shelves to create a
large open space.
Poynter Presentation Corner
After (space is re-purposed)
Flexible space with mobile furniture – encourages users to reorganize it to suit
their learning needs.
•Student groups prepare presentations
•Science Café and other speaker events
Implications & Conclusions
The implications of this research finding are two-fold:
The library can reduce the visitor “costs” of displays by
situating them along the visitors’ natural pathways and thereby
encourage greater interaction; and
r The library can increase the visitors’ “benefits” by re-designing
“costly” far-flung areas of the library as desirable destinations
Ongoing testing of library redesign allows us to understand how
visitors are using library space, and how we can direct their
movement patterns to encourage interaction with library
resources, services, and exhibits.
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Bitgood, S., Dukes, S., & Abbey, L. (2006). “Interest and effort as predictors of reading: a
test of the general value principle.” Current Trends in Audience Research. Vol. 19.
Bitgood S. & Dukes, S. (2005). “Not another step! Economy of movement and pedestrian
choice point behavior in shopping malls.” Environment and Behavior. Vol. 20 (10).
Freeman, G. (2005). “The library as place: changes in learning patterns, collections,
technology and use.” In Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space.
Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources.
Shill, H.B. & Tonner S. (2004) “Does the building still matter? usage patterns in new,
expanded, and renovated libraries, 1995-2002.” College & Research Libraries. March.
Shill, H.B. & Tonner S. (2003) “Creating a better place: physical improvement in
academic libraries, 1995-2002.”College & Research Libraries. November.