Collaborative Spaces, Part 3
In a recent webcast for Demco’s ongoing library issues webinar series, I discussed what makes collaborative spaces effective. With today’s technology we can collaborate anytime, anywhere, and with anyone around the globe. But sometimes we need to be face-to-face, and we need spaces that don’t merely allow collaboration to take place. We need spaces that encourage working collaboratively. Providing furniture that supports group work or a white board and monitor on the wall of a study room are a good start. But collaborative space demands more thought and planning to be highly effective. Third in the series:
While offering collaborative spaces in a library is a necessity, these spaces are just one of many types in a library. Many library users still come to the library for quiet, contemplative space. Libraries often provide variety and choice in experience in one wide, open space. Attention to acoustics is vital. Acoustic conflicts can be avoided by strategically locating the library’s collaborative areas. Zone your library interior to separate active, noisy functions from quiet functions. Consider human nature when planning the locations of collaborative spaces. For example, many people talk louder than usual when on a conference call. Maker spaces often generate excitement and therefore boisterous sharing of experiences and ideas.
Sometimes adding walls is not an option or hinders a library’s ability to maintain flexibility. Instead, offer visual cues so people know where to be quiet, or where it’s okay to collaborate. Consider the two images that follow. The image on the left has a lower ceiling and softer lighting. It has a more intimate scale than its immediate surroundings. The materials complement the whole, but have more depth and texture. All of these visual cues signal a different use from the other areas of the library and therefore a cue to behavior—quiet behavior in this instance.
Now consider the image on the right—same library, different area. With brighter lighting and more open layout, this area says active. The light, translucent materials suggest mobility and activity. They invite you to collaborate here.
When space is tight, consider using furnishings that can do double duty. A booth can provide a place to meet or act as a study carrel for somebody who needs to concentrate. Especially if upholstered, the high sides can create acoustical separation.
The furnishings layout can also serve as a cue to behavior. Lounge seats arranged for conversation signal that collaboration is welcome. Seats facing a view, screened from the rest of the library, or arranged as individual seats signal solitude.
Given all the ways that people use libraries today (collaboration being a major one), zoning has become key to a library’s functional success.