The Learning Resources Centre: Assessing and Restructuring Library Space

V. Updated Facilities Layout

Building on what we have:

Making the LRC a more efficient and quiet space requires a few changes to the layout, upgrading ceiling tiles, and re-arranging stacks or book shelves. A number of inner walls need to be removed but all the wiring should be in place as most rooms are wired for technology accessibility. Furniture choices, number of shelving and computer stations have already been decided by the college and library staff and will be worked into the layout. Cost analysis, tender and contract issues will not be covered here, as the emphasis of this study is specifically on issues of access and space use.

1. Access:

In order to ensure better access to the library, the exit leading out of the east corridor will become the second entrance into the library (see Appendix C). This choice had been suggested before, but concerns with security issues had delayed its implementation. In order to address the security issue, the quiet room next to the entrance will be removed and replaced by the technology office and a service desk. Bringing staff into this area will solve the security issue.

Moving the technology office and service desk by the east exit will not only provide a secure east entrance it will also solve a number of issues associated with access as well as noise. The traffic that is now created by students and faculty picking up and dropping off computer and television equipment will be redirected to the east entrance. The service desk to the northeast of this entrance will continue to service library clients as the circulation and reference desk. It is hoped that this traffic corridor created by the two service points in the north and east of the library will create a traffic flow that is not only less congestive, it will also help to connect the two areas of the library.

The elevator, which is located just to the left of the east entrance, provides another practical reason for using this exit. Presently, users must push the computer carts down a long corridor and around a corner to get to the elevator.

Another significant change is the proximity to the student lounge. The east exit leads to the student lounge located in the centre of the second floor of the college (see Appendix A). This will physically place the LRC closer to the centre of college community life, creating better visibility for the library and better access for the students.

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2. Restructuring and integration of services:

An important issue at the South Campus LRC is the integration of technology and library space. Computers have become an important research tool and are an integral part of libraries, however, computers used for leisure and group project work require different space and acoustic considerations. Placing the computer stations at the entrance to the library and by the library stacks has created both noise and traffic flow issues. In order to solve this problem, library and technology services will occupy different spaces within the library.

Technology: All computer stations will be moved to the east and south corridors (see Appendix C). The south corridor houses the group-use rooms and the audio-visual equipment. Moving the 2 computer stations that include a Mac computer and 2 scanners, will help to support the audio-visual services that are already being provided in this space. This is also a good place for group projects, as sound in this area does not travel as well to the rest of the library due to the corridor’s shape.

Supervision of the west corridor is not an issue as there are two offices located in this corridor and the area is visible from the circulation service desk.

The remaining computers are going to be moved into the new space created by removing “Group Use” room 1 and part of the “Storage” area located in the east corridor (see Appendix B and Appendix C). Moving the remaining computer stations into this space will make managing the work stations easier, encourages students to use a lab that was often overlooked and often left empty, and brings students into an area that has consistently been underutilized.

“Group Use” room 1 (see Appendix B) was originally planned as a meeting room for 8 people but was rarely used for this purpose. “Group Use” room 5 can be used as an alternative. The “Quiet” room at the end of the corridor was not properly insulated and noise issues often made this room unsuitable for quiet study. The new “Quiet” room located by the north wall has loadbearing walls making this a better insulated and more suitable quiet space.

Moving the computer stations and the technology office into the east corridor and making the east exit into a second entrance will not only help to enhance space use in this area it will also help to focus and better coordinate technology services in the library.

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Library: The second major relocation will be the reorganization of the shelving stacks or library area. Moving shelves is a labour intensive job, and careful planning is necessary before this task can be undertaken. The final shelving stack arrangement was partly influenced by the need to have the reference collections located in close proximity to reference staff and to ensure that the magazine collection is visibly displayed. Further complicating the shelving arrangement is the building’s lack of proper floor support and the need to incorporate the many pillars located in the main room. As a result, shelving stacks must always be arranged running in a north to south configuration, perpendicular to the floor supports.

The first priority will be to move the shelving units into the centre of the main room. This arrangement will allow the shelves to be used as a noise buffer for the study spaces created along the north and south walls. Placing the quiet study areas near the outside walls also has the added advantage of placing the students closer the few sources of outside light. The windows in the LRC are very narrow, with a width of 44 centimetres and approximately 2 meters high. The library can be a very sombre space, especially in the winter, and for this reason it is important to take advantage of all the available outside light. More importantly, the new shelving arrangement should bring library services into a more prominent position in the building while at the same time being able to create quieter study spaces.

Five computer stations will be allocated for reference and research use. Three stations will be located on the circulation service desk and two stations will be located near the shelving stacks.

Most recreational spaces (sofa and chair arrangements) have been minimized.Sofa chairs have been placed near study spaces to provide comfortable reading areas, however, the need to allocate available space for study areas and closer access to a student lounge, suggested that social spaces could be better delivered outside the LRC.

Furniture space arrangement was partly guided by Phillip Leighton and David Weber’s book, Planning Academic and Research Library Buildings (see Appendix D). The suggested aisle width of 1.118 m between shelving has been deemed insufficient for wheelchair users and the LRC uses the preferred width of 1.15 cm (see Appendix G). Cohen’s suggested 2.32 m² per seating area was used whenever possible, except for window seating arrangements and where space was at a premium. Some areas of the library have also been more sparsely furnished to allow for future changes or additions.

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3. Creating quiet spaces:

Removing the computer stations to the east and south corridors and moving the library shelf units to the centre of the main room has created a much more acoustically protective environment.

Creating a second entrance to the east will ease the traffic congestion that was responsible some of the noise issue.

Other small, but important changes, will be the removal of the photocopiers from the centre of the main room. There are numbers of areas in the east and south corridors where the copiers and photocopiers can be relocated.

One final important solution would be the replacement of the ceiling tiles with acoustic tiles. Although many other alternatives have been suggested, including adding “white” background noise, replacing the ceiling tiles would give the most effective results.

A medium-sized library should have an ambient sound level of approximately 45 to 50 decibels, with 20 decibels being the average whisper and 60 decibels being the average sound often experienced in an office (Cohen, 214). Considering that the LRC services about a thousand students everyday (see Appendix E), keeping the noise level down to 20 decibels will require some acoustic buffer of some type. Since the ceilings in this library are not very high and low ceilings have a higher noise level, replacing the plaster tiles with suspended acoustical tiles should create the best results. All sound absorbing materials used in buildings are rated using the “Noise Reduction Coefficient” or NRC (Salter). A three quarter inch (2 cm.) acoustical tile has one of the best noise reductions coefficients (217). In an area where many people gather, the sound of their voices will travel up to the ceiling. A proper ceiling tile will absorb much of the noise rather than bouncing it back down (220).

Considering open plan areas, Cohen instructs that it is necessary to have approximately 2.4 m² of space between each working area for proper sound privacy (226). This is not always a realistic solution, although it is important to consider this number when allocating quiet space and traffic or working areas. Fortunately books are good sound insulators and can be used to absorb sound travelling from the central traffic areas. Salter reiterates the point that in libraries, sound acoustics depend on the placement of furniture and the amount of sound absorbing material, and that one way to solve noise issues is to place the quiet reading spaces as far away from the main traffic corridors as possible

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