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Evaluation of University of Queensland Library Spaces: three case studies at St Lucia Campus

Dr Neda Abbasi, Deakin University, Associate Professor Richard Tucker, Deakin University, Associate Professor Kenn Fisher, University of Melbourne and Robert Gerrity, University of Queensland

Wednesday 17 September 2014 – Concurrent session 16, 4pm to 4:25pm


Introduction: The paper reports on an evaluation study of spaces in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSHL), Biological Sciences (BSL) and Walter Harrison Law (WHLL) Libraries of the University of Queensland (UQ). The study was part of an evaluation of the quality and patterns of use of spaces in UQ libraries, which aimed to propose recommendations for future improvements and decision-making. This paper presents a study of areas of weakness in existing SSHL spaces, and impacts of the refurbishment of spaces at BSL and WHLL on students’ experiences. The findings evidence a link between students’ learning experiences and the quality of library spaces.

Methods: An online survey, “Students’ Experiences and Perceptions of Library Physical Spaces”, was designed to collect data from students. The survey questions addressed seven topics: (1) overall satisfaction with spaces in the UQ Libraries; (2) welcoming nature of the library entry; (3) lighting; (4) acoustics; (5) furniture; (6) wayfinding; and (7) preferences for different space types in the library.

Results: 1505 students completed the surveys, with 1098 responses recorded to open-ended questions on why students visited the libraries and the physical characteristics of the spaces that influenced their experiences. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data elucidated key design challenges and considerations. In particular, the data suggested that the provision of individual quiet study spaces remains an important role of academic libraries, with Studying Alone identified as the most important reason for student visits.

Conclusions: The findings highlight the importance of individual study spaces and propose a number of recommendations in relation to physical space design and management.

Relevance: Academic libraries face the challenge to keep pace with change in relation to students’ demographics, pedagogy and technology. In doing so, it is important to have an understanding of the evolving patterns of students’ learning behaviours, space uses and preferences through ongoing evaluation of library spaces.

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