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Pursuing an interest in the societal and institutional role of libraries, I conducted a study of the library at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Public libraries were once thought of as "The People's University." A place where one could experience self-directed learning, with access to all the information necessary to become a well-rounded, knowledgeable citizen of the world. Over time, the use of libraries has shifted. In order for libraries to serve today's citizens, it must be a center that combines many types of spaces — serving a variety of functions and including varying levels of social engagement. I used this lens to analyze the MCAD library. .
I created a resource booklet that combined excerpts of existing writings on environmental psychology, spatial behavior, and workplace design, along with my own research and writings — covering space usage in libraries and how it effects and is affected by human privacy behaviors. I analyzed material placement, arrangement of workspaces, lighting, and usage statistics to inform my work.
As part of my research I conducted a survey of MCAD library staff members. In their responses, they without prompt, elaborated on the idea of the library's shift from an education center to an entertainment center. When asked about the true purpose of a library, one staff member said it was to "allow users access to materials that educate, enrich, and inspire." But when asked what students spend the most time doing in the library, the answer was that students are "always at the computers" and that "many movies get checked out." One staff member defined his role as helping patrons find information, but when asked what students spend time working on, he replied 1) Working on the lab computers or laptops, 2) Group/individual study, and 3) reading periodicals. This calls for a shift, not only in the role of public and institutional libraries today, but in the role played by staff.
This book is better read in-person, but you can download a PDF of it here. Note that this is a 100-page book containing many long excerpts from existing materials as well as my own writing. See page 89 for credits.