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News @ Northeastern: A Redesign for Snell Library's Study Space

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Thomas Urell
t.urell [at]
(617) 373-2821
Digital Media Commons Recording Studios

News photo by Mary Knox Merrill

by Jason Kornwitz, news @ Northeastern

Snell Library wel­comes nearly 2 mil­lion vis­i­tors per year, many of whom study inside the building, where col­lec­tions include hun­dreds of thou­sands of books, peri­od­i­cals and mul­ti­media materials. Will Wakeling, dean of Uni­ver­sity Libraries, said that many stu­dents affec­tion­ately refer to the study space as “Club Snell.”

“We take very seri­ously the role of the library not only as a source for research sup­port through schol­arly mate­rials, col­lec­tions and ser­vices,” he explained, “but also as a place where stu­dents can work together to create new knowl­edge and an envi­ron­ment for quiet, indi­vidual scholarship.”

The library, Wakeling said, is in the process of imple­menting a broad vision, which includes a shift of emphasis away from print mate­rials toward its dig­ital col­lec­tions of online e-​​books, jour­nals and peri­od­i­cals. The shift, he said, would free up more study space, noting that “The library is com­mitted to cre­ating a flex­ible and rich envi­ron­ment for users who see Snell as cen­tral to their aca­d­emic experience.”

Keeping in line with its aca­d­emic mis­sion, the Uni­ver­sity Libraries con­ducted its latest user feed­back exer­cise this April, a survey asking stu­dents about their pref­er­ences for study space, equip­ment and fur­ni­ture. Nearly 1,000 stu­dents com­pleted the survey in print or online through the library’s Face­book and Twitter channels.

The find­ings served as the cat­a­lyst for a series of ongoing improve­ments to the building’s study space and under­scored a pop­ular refrain among stu­dents that Snell is a home away from home. Sixty-​​three per­cent of stu­dents sur­veyed, for example, indi­cated that they study indi­vid­u­ally in the library more than once per week. The plu­rality of stu­dents sur­veyed asked for two things: more tables and more out­lets in which to plug in lap­tops and smart­phones.

They also asked for more com­fort­able chairs and more printers in both the library and throughout campus. Stu­dents indi­cated a pref­er­ence for smaller tables over desks for indi­vidual study ses­sions and addi­tional larger tables for group meet­ings. As a first response, the library began an instal­la­tion project to add hun­dreds of new out­lets, which will be avail­able for the fall 2012 semester. The goal of the outlet instal­la­tion project is to ensure that each stu­dent has access to power for his or her elec­tronic devices.

“We must always keep an ear open to what the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity needs and then respond appro­pri­ately,” Wakeling said. “Meeting those needs is the best way to pro­vide users with a space that they feel is their own.”


Original story on news @ Northeastern page.

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