Library Master Space Plan: tables for books?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

  • What would you give up for more study space in the Library?

    What would you give up for more study space in the Library?

Written by Abigel Lemak

Finding a spot to study on campus is often a long and tiresome ordeal, especially when it comes to the McLaughlin Library. Although last year’s space enhancing implements have been a great help in providing more study areas in the Library, it seems that students can’t get enough. The current space enhancing plans are focused on using the space the University already has instead of building new ones in an attempt to stay within budget. 

Many students may not know that there is currently a Library Master Space Plan (LMSP) project in progress, looking for new ways to free up space in the Library. The Cannon met up with Kelly Bertrand, Director of Organizational Services, to find out more.  

The Cannon: How would you describe the LMSP to students and what prompted the project in the first place?

Kelly Bertrand: The Library Master Space Plan is designed to respond to the needs of students today and equip us to better respond to the needs of students in years to come. It might best be described as a roadmap for investment in the McLaughlin Library so that we can meet the needs of students today and over the next 10 to 20 years.

Over the past six years the Library has invested over 1.5 million to upgrade and enhance Library space and to expand student study space. During this period we have added an estimated 400 electric outlets and increased out seating capacity by 43 percent to 2713 from 1887. Many of these projects were incremental, only addressed part of the needs and were completed as part of our annual planning, however, we did not have a comprehensive master plan to guide our decisions nor our investments. 

A comprehensive plan will ensure that we invest in the right projects, at the right time and ensure that our efforts have an impact on students and the learning environment. We don't want to complete a project only to have to undue portions of it in a year or two if we did not consider long range implications.

C: Do students get a say in the kind of library space they want? 

KB: The LMSP project is very much designed by students, for students. The outreach has been significant. In addition to setting up large interactive displays and town-hall style sessions in busy campus areas[,] such as the University Centre atrium and the Library's Academic Town Square, where hundreds of students provided comments, recommendations and feedback on the planning directly to the architectural firm. [W]e have held focus groups specifically for undergraduate students, in-residence students, graduate students and of course faculty and researchers. 

Students have also been encouraged to provide comments to   and will be updated, via news items on the Library web page, as we progress through the project.

Over the next two months the LMSP Working Group, which I chair and the LMSP Advisory Group, which is chaired by Rebecca Graham, CIO and Chief Librarian, will be working with Cannon as well as Library staff to digest the feedback, develop a comprehensive program and develop a preferred option for planning purposes.  It should be noted that the Advisory Group includes representation from the GSA, CSA and Interhall Council as well as faculty and library staff.

Our goal is to have a draft plan to share with students at the beginning of September, allowing opportunity for feedback and comments and work to finalize the plan before the end of November and issue a final report before the end of the calendar year. This plan has been built from the ground up by students and we will continue with student engagement throughout the process.

C: Do you think there is a division in the kinds of resources used by science and arts students, and does the LMSP consider both?

KB: Different students in different programs will have different needs and the goal of this project is to consider all of those needs as we work through the planning. In the end, given limited resources, we may not be able to implement all of the suggestions, however we are committed to building a plan that balances the needs of our diverse community of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty.

C: The question is how exactly the LMSP is going to free up space, as the most obvious filler of space are the book stacks. Although many sections go unused, print resources are integral for students who major in the Arts and Humanities. With the recent implementation of the Program Prioritization Process (PPP), the University of Guelph is developing a system where programs are placed in a hierarchical sequence based on the money they generate for the school. This move towards an educational system that is focused on the corporate aspects of the University rather than its educational responsibilities questions the fate of the Liberal Arts. 

The LMSP is for students, allowing them the opportunity to shape the sort of learning environment that best benefits them. Without comprehensive student input across departments, a book-less Library may be in store. Alternatives like freeing-up a second Library space on campus with a focus on resources for Arts and Humanities will be missed as a viable compromise in maintaining a place where students can draw on important physical resources, unless the student body speaks up.

With the many advancements in information and research technologies, the possibilities of building new spaces seem endless in their design. It seems up to the student body, then, to decide on what kind of future they imagine for their Library and how it can best serve them in their studies.    

For more information visit McLaughlin Library’s website here.



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