Collaborative Spaces, Part 5
In a recent webcast for Demco’s ongoing library 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. Previously discussed: Adaptability, Level Field, Zoning, and White Space. Last in the series:
Customers coming to your library to collaborate with others often do so on a scheduled basis. That is, they have reserved a group study room or a meeting space. These meetings may be face-to-face collaborations, or increasingly may involve people around the country, or globe, virtually. Accommodating long-distance collaborations with the right tools is a critical function for today’s library. Software that offers the ability to see documents and images, as well as the people involved in the conversation, is much more effective for collaborative ventures than tools that allow disconnected voices alone. Libraries that offer opportunities to effectively collaborate locally and globally are providing a critical tool in today’s network economy.
But some of the best collaborations happen on the fly by chance. The informal office water cooler conversation that leads to major innovation is a classic example. In addition to offering spaces intentionally designed for collaboration, libraries should also invite serendipitous collaborations to occur.
In the same way many value browsing stacks for finding inspiration and uncovering unintentional but fruitful connections, creating opportunities for spontaneous collaboration can prompt connections. Seating and collaborative tools placed near well-traveled or highly sought-after spaces invite these types of encounters. Provide opportunities to pause on the path to collaborative spaces, as a type of breakout space or as a primer for the scheduled time to work together.
Collaborative ventures often suffer from being scheduled. Starting or stopping on cue, such as when the group study room is available, is a reality, but this reality can be mitigated by allowing customers the opportunity to either start or continue a conversation on the path to or from that room. Provide a niche to get off the main path or seating near interactive zones to allow natural spillover. Provide lounge chairs in your maker space or study tables near interactive fixtures.
As the great equalizer, libraries epitomize opportunity. Many of the skills needed to thrive in today’s world require spaces that libraries can and do provide. 21st-century literacy means being able to communicate ideas through multiple media, solve problems, work in groups, and effectively collaborate.