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Library design: Six elements of a successful process

Monday, 21 March 2016

One of an occasional series

Janette BlackburnPlanning the transformation of an academic library is likely to involve an expanded mix of users. This may include new partners and will call for a dynamic, inclusive process.

Some helpful strategies include

Map the journey
Think of your process as a travel guide for your journey and the destination is the completion of your library project. Plan for unexpected stops and side trips along the way, but keep the final destination in sight.

Make it open and collaborative
Use the process to harness different perspectives, create a campus-wide buzz, and build buy-in. Seek input early and prioritize communication throughout the project. Don’t underestimate the need to do this, even on small projects.

Mix it up
Combine stakeholder groups in different ways to find common ground. This will also highlight discrete interests that must be addressed through a more narrowly focused feedback loop.

Leave the building
“Power users” may be easy to reach, but don’t overlook more casual users. Reach these groups by going where to they are, whether they’re studying in the local coffee shop or working out at the gym.

Work with the calendar
Know an institution’s rhythms and their impact on feedback. Summer can be good for focused work with staff. Fall is the best time to begin initiatives with a campus community refreshed from summer break, and alumni weekends offer opportunities to build community support. Treat grading periods and commencement as blackout dates.

How bold is it?
Projects that “break the mold” through dramatic transformations of program, partnerships, and spaces are best served by a more intensive effort, with input from a diverse mix of stakeholders, and iterative cycles of observation, playback, and synthesis throughout the design process.

- Janette Blackburn

Janette Blackburn, AIA, LEED AP, is an architect and principal at Shepley Bulfinch and a leader of the firm’s education and libraries practice. This is an excerpt from her chapter in the upcoming book, Creating the High-Functioning Library Space, which will be published by the Libraries Unlimited imprint of ABC-CLIO later this year.

Library planning roadmap - large

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