The Learning Resources Centre:
Assessing and Restructuring Library Space
I still remember using the card catalogue. I knew a small university that had one room dedicated to it, and I remember being quite confused because someone had separated the information into two sections, subject headings on one side of the room and author and title cards on the other. I did not know it at the time, but this would be my first introduction to issues of searching and access. It would also be my first introduction to a library that had been made to fit into an existing building space that was entirely unsuited for its needs. If I remember correctly, the building's structure had a greater affect on my learning experience than the inconvenience of a separate card catalogue
Literature announcing the arrival of the virtual library continues to accumulate, but in the meantime, new library buildings are being built every day and the public continues to support the local community library. Library buildings are important community and cultural spaces and they are a visual representation of all we would like our libraries to symbolize. This is why thinking and educating ourselves about library structures and the environments they represent is such an important issue.
Library buildings have often been described as “people places”. One of the most positive outcomes from the past twenty years of technological disruption has been the reaffirming of those library values that stress accountability to the community. Understanding our users and their needs and finding ways to support those needs is what makes libraries “people spaces”. Today, libraries are not just buildings that house book collections. Libraries are spaces that support and provide access to information for the whole community.
An exercise in facilities planning can help introduce some of the more practical issues in library design, but without an understanding of the community it serves, the exercise is meaningless. This is probably one of the more important ideas I learned in library school: Librarians must seek to understand their users' information needs and how they choose to support those needs will decide the nature of libraries in the future.