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Exploring Library Design

College libraries are undergoing a rapid transformation. From storehouses of knowledge to vibrant community hubs, libraries are changing the dynamics of higher educational institutions. 

To better understand interior design solutions that emphasize and improve student experiences, we completed extensive research in partnership with StudioFYNN. These findings revealed eight critical ways to view the dynamic shifts in physical space and student engagement.


8 Shifts in Higher Ed Libraries

With such significant and rapid change in libraries, these eight key shifts offered a series of lenses to understand major shifts in the needs of students and spaces.

Number 1: Architectural Statement

Influenced by architecture, library spaces need to adapt to accommodate digital and print resources, along with individual and shared needs. While libraries are vital knowledge hubs, many must renovate existing spaces instead of expanding to nearby buildings.

Number 2: Post-Build, Furniture, Interiors

Institutions should redesign existing spaces to meet user needs through human-centered design, aligning culture, function, and brand. Custom solutions are increasingly sought to address diverse space requirements, considering factors such as materials, biophilic design, acoustics, and lighting.

Number 3: Core Spaces: The Classroom and the Library

Libraries are key hubs for active learning in higher education, promoting collaboration and providing refuge from traditional classroom settings. They also increasingly serve as havens for personal rejuvenation and fostering a sense of belonging, reflecting a growing emphasis on well-being.

Number 4: Signature Spaces and Brand

Colleges emphasize signature spaces like libraries and communal areas to showcase their unique brand and value. Alongside these traditional areas, there's a growing need for informal, creative spaces that encourage learning and personal development, mirroring the entrepreneurial spirit of start-ups.

Number 5: "Me" and "We" Spaces

Libraries are collaborative community hubs, requiring spaces that nurture both individual and collective experiences. Designating areas for 'me' and 'we' not only establishes physical boundaries but also cultivates desired mindsets and emotions, facilitating diverse experiences.

Number 6: The Value of Tradition

In the U.S., the age diversity of academic institutions reflects wisdom, often mirrored in traditional furnishings corresponding to the library's era. Institutions aim to harmonize tradition with modernity, continuously seeking a balance between honoring their history and embracing their future.

Number 7: Community & Service Models

As libraries evolve, community engagement and librarian responsibilities remain crucial to service offerings and space planning. Librarians, as lifelong learners, play a pivotal role in enhancing community engagement across physical and virtual realms through planning processes.

Number 8: Dedicated Versus Transitional

Campus facilities' success depends greatly on designing for diverse usage times, accommodating quick use and long-term study needs. To ensure spaces align with user behaviors, integrate space utilization into the design process, balancing dedicated and transitional uses.


Thank you to the following institutions for their participation in this research: University of Pennsylvania's Integrated Product Design Program, CA College of the Arts, Clemson University, CUNY Baruch, Dartmouth College, The New School's Parsons School of Design, and UC Berkeley.


Defining the Library of Today

From 'Me' to 'We' Spaces
From 'Me' to 'We' Spaces

Recent trends are transforming these spaces from solitary 'me' spaces into collaborative 'we' spaces. This necessitates innovative design and new user experiences to navigate the evolving dichotomies.

Signature Design for Signature Spaces
Signature Design for Signature Spaces

Unique signature spaces within a college library serve as the brand ambassador. Revitalized library design allows higher education institutions to shine the spotlight on their progress and culture.

Library Design Inspiration

Find inspiration in these innovative spaces for your own library design renovation.

Download White Paper

Learn more about the transformation of college libraries in our comprehensive white paper.

Additional Content

Read these insights on designing new solutions for your higher education library spaces.

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