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Title: Leveraging Research to Guide Fundamental Changes in Learning: A Case Study at Kreitzberg Library, Norwich University

Keywords: library, academic library, learning environments, classroom Project focus: assessment methodologies, techniques, or practices; spaces; user behaviors and needs; assessment concepts and/or management; concepts/theory Results made or will make case for: more funding, improvements in services, improvements in spaces, changes in library policy, proof of library impact and value, decisions about library staffing, how money or resources may be directed Data needed: Readily available data is built into our database—i.e., hours of operation, undergrad and graduate student populations, volumes in the collection, etc. Site visits to academic libraries document more tailored quantitative data on seat counts, seat types, allied programs, etc. Methodology: qualitative, quantitative Project duration: over 5 years Tool(s) utilized: In-person site visits documenting library programs, seat types, seat quantities, etc. It is a relatively low-tech process requiring man-hours more than anything else. Cost estimate: $100–$500 Type of institution: college—private, college—public, university—private, university—public; varies Institution enrollment: < 5,000; As noted, our database captures over seventy-five institutions, so enrollment varies. In terms of the specific case study of Norwich University, it is 2,200. Highest level of education: varies; as noted, our database captures over seventy-five institutions, so highest level of education provided varies. In terms of the specific case study of Norwich University, it is a master’s/professional degree.

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Abstract: Despite the arrival of the digital age, explosion of online resources, and proliferation of personal devices, the library remains a vital component of the campus experience. Invested with new and changing blends of program offerings, the library is evolving alongside teaching and learning styles and student expectations. The academic library is poised at the threshold of an uncertain future—book box, archive, student hub, campus nexus, quiet study, active collaboration, classroom, or all of the above—where does the library go from here? Leveraging our database of over seventy-five academic libraries, we guide institutions by marrying trends with their unique cultures.


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Leveraging Research to Guide Fundamental Changes in Learning A Case Study at Kreitzberg Library, Norwich University Richard M. Jones

Context Questions We Hear Despite the arrival of the digital age, explosion of online resources, and proliferation of personal devices, the library remains a vital component of the campus experience. Invested with new and changing blends of program offerings, the library is evolving alongside teaching and learning styles and student expectations. The academic library is poised at the threshold of an uncertain futureâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;book box, archive, student hub, campus nexus, quiet study, active collaboration, classroom, or all of the aboveâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;where does the library go from here? And what framework is in place to guide these decisions? Librarians, campus planners, presidents, faculty, students, and boards of trustees 204


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regularly pose these questions as we enter into a planning and design project for their academic library. We have learned that empirical data and comparative analysis among a peer group is very well received. Confronted with this challenge, we have gathered firsthand research on the state of the library on campus. Leveraging this research to understand past and present conventions and to speculate about the future, we guide higher education institutions by marrying trends and benchmarks with their unique cultures. No two campuses are alike, and neither are their libraries, but this tool equips us to draw comparisons, look at variation, and ask why.

Our database of over seventy-five academic libraries tracks seat count, seat type, allied and resident partners, learning environment types, and other characteristics. The institutions surveyed are predominately New England and eastern seaboard, but we also have gathered information about college and university libraries during our travels across the United States and Canada. Including qualitative assessment alongside these quantitative characteristics lends context to the numbers. Anecdotal information gathered in the process is so critical to interpreting the numbers. For example, one school we visited had a dramatically skewed allocation of student carrels. It was only through conversation that we discovered that the mandatory senior thesis comes with being assigned a carrel in the library for the semester. It is for this reason that we gather our information firsthand. Slightly more than half of these libraries have not seen significant r enovations in over ten years. The balance represents altogether new libraries, or those that have benefited f rom m ajor r enovations i n t he l ast d ecade. We h ave c hosen t his t en-year break point as a means of comparing new and old, and the shift between the two is increasingly apparent. Our database spans public and private institutions, ranging in size from 350 to over 40,000 undergraduate full-time equivalent (FTE) students. Despite this diversity, we find consistent characteristics cutting across our survey. While many campuses have multiple libraries, capturing specific disciplines or areas of study, our survey is focused on the main library of a campus. We do this to maintain some consistency in our data across institutions. Although specialty libraries (e.g., law, business, art, music, etc.) contribute to the academic profile of an institution, these typically cater to a graduate student population. Our research focus is on undergraduate students as a target audience. That said, we have done targeted studies of specialty libraries to serve a particular client. For example, while working with the University of Vermont Medical School library, we took time to visit a half-dozen regional peer medical school libraries.

A Case Study To best describe how we apply this research to a clientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s specific challenges, we will use a case study to demonstrate what this looks like in practice. After completing studies

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Our Database


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looking at targeted aspects of Kreitzberg Library at Norwich University, Northfield, Vermont, in 2011 and 2012, Jones Architecture was hired for the redesign of the library at large. The existing library was designed in 1991. Although the “bones” of the building—general organization, deferred maintenance, finishes, accessibility, and so on—remained strong, there were programmatic deficiencies that had developed over time as a result of the changing nature of academic libraries. Aspects of the library’s operations and program were being left behind, and with each semester that passed, the gate count was declining. The goal of the project was to return the library to its status as a vital resource for students, faculty, and staff and to create a destination gathering place to build community that had been missing on campus.

Communicating Results and Impact Sharing the Story and Evolving Our Methodology While presenting our preliminary work to the board of trustees, we were questioned at length. How and why did we arrive at these specific programmatic recommendations? Many of the questions outlined above were asked—challenging the state of the academic library, its role on today’s campus, even the relevance of the book itself! We realized that what we were using as our “research” was in fact anecdotal. It lacked rigor and documentation. It was this experience that challenged us to begin developing our database of research. We visited a handful of Norwich University’s peer institutions, documented our observations, analyzed our findings, and where appropriate adapted our recommendations to reflect c urrent trends and benchmarks. A s a result o f this more rigorous process, the board and building committee got fully behind the project and we were able to move forward.

Key Metrics Seat Count One significant deficiency that we identified early in the pro cess was purely the seat count within the library. The number of undergraduate FTE who could fi nd a se at in the library was significantly fewer than at peer institutions. Surveys of the campus population confirmed that this had an exponential effect in terms of gate count. There were not enough seats in the library, and as a result, students were less likely to even go to the library to try and seek out a seat. The library seat count was 218 seats, or roughly 10 percent of the undergraduate FTE population. This tracks low against our database in terms of libraries that are more than ten years old (pre-2006), which are more typically tracking at 15 percent. It is well below our database in terms of newer libraries (since 2006), which track at 21 percent. On a campus the size of Norwich University, this gap of 11 percent results in a deficit of 230 seats. Our project remedies this in part, adding 220 seats to the library allocation. This anticipates growth from the current 2,100 students to 2,400 over the next decade, reaching Norwich University’s goal of 18 percent of undergraduates able to find a seat in the library. Space and budget


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constraints limited the expansion of the seating capacity in part, but larger campus goals also played into this decision. Recent renovations to the Wise Campus Center provide significant study space, and future projects with three existing academic buildings and one new academic building will fold in study spaces as part of the program. A more distributed model such as this was deemed more appropriate for Norwich Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s campus, allowing them to feel comfortable with the 18 percent target rather than the benchmark 21 percent goal. See figures 13.1 and 13.2.

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Figure 13.1 Seat count, academic libraries, pre-2006. An average of 15.3 percent of undergraduates can find a seat in the library. Norwich University, our case study, is indicated in blue.

average, 21.1%

Figure 13.2 Seat count, academic libraries, post-2006. An average of 21.1 percent of undergraduates can find a seat in the library. Norwich University, our case study, is indicated in blue.


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Seat Type You can have as many seats in a library as undergraduates (although that would be a stretch!), but if the blend of seat type is misaligned with student expectations, then they will not be used. Our database tracks six types: desk/carrel, workstation, open table, group study, lounge, and instruction. Desk, carrel, workstation, and lounge are selfexplanatory. Open table is the classic image of the reading roomâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a long table occupied by multiple people either working together on a shared project or working alongside one another on discrete projects. Group study is intended to capture rooms within the library, often with glazed doors or interior glazing allowing transparency, that are for use by groups of four, eight, twelve, or more students. These spaces are typically supported by tools and technology such as a flat screen or a marker board, and so on. Instruction spaces are rooms that are used for teaching. They may be part of a registrarâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s allocation yet housed within the library. Or they may be for librarians to use as a space for multiple functions: teaching people how to use new technologies, training faculty on new pedagogical approaches, teaching students how to conduct research, or hosting students for review of special collections materials. In terms of Kreitzberg Library, the blend of seat types was heavily tilted toward the desk/carrel, indicative of libraries of that vintage. There were very few group study rooms, and no instruction spaces. A wide corridor and stacks area had been co-opted by the library staff as an ad-hoc computer classroom. Lounge seating was very limited. Dense stack space dominated multiple floors, although the staff was in the midst of a major project to deaccession materials and find floor area for more seating. Staff levels were also built around an older model that required greater support for periodicals, processing, and other functions. Attrition had left some vacant staff sp ace th at was being considered for potential seating.

Figure 13.3 Seat Type, academic libraries, pre-2006, compared with Kreitzberg Library pre-renovation.


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As figure 13.3 indicates, libraries from pre-2006 tend to be more heavily weighted toward individual study. Desks, carrels, and open table seating dominate the seat type blend, comprising a composite 63 percent of the total seats in this generation of libraries. Workstations are prevalent, as the personal device was still evolving. Group study rooms, lounge seating, and instruction spaces are not as commonplace. Kreitzberg Library was emblematic of this era; carrels and desks alone comprised 47 percent of the existing seat type blend. When we compare this pre-2007 data with academic libraries from the past decade, we see substantial shifts in the blend of seat types. Open table seating continues as the predominant type. Desks, carrels, and workstations all take dips, reflective of trends in the classroom and pedagogy to develop curriculum around group projects. Instruction space, lounge seating, and group study rooms are all trending upward. These trends are captured in figure 13.4, where we compare current benchmarks to the Kreitzberg Library program and design solution.

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Figure 13.4 Seat type, academic libraries, post-2006, compared with Kreitzberg Library postrenovation.

You will see that we do not align our recommendations for Kreitzberg Library oneto-one with what we see as trends in the marketplace. Data is slippery and can be used to make arguments for and against any number of things. We utilize our research as markers along a spectrum. Institutions may need to augment or reduce seat quantity or one type over another, owing to the specific and unique culture of their place. It may simply be a matter of available space. In the case of Kreitzberg Library, the primary motivation was to increase the quantity of soft seating, open tables, group study rooms, and instruction space at the expense of the carrel seating. This brings Kreitzberg Library into better alignment with typical seat type blends for current academic libraries. See figure 13.5.


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Figure 13.5 Seat type, Kreitzberg Library before and after renovation.

Allied Programs Academic libraries have always been home to special initiatives, dedicated in-house expertise, research units, and other resident programs. There are common programs found in many libraries: special collections, archives, media (microfilm and microfiche decades ago, now much more broadly speaking), map rooms, art galleries, or multipurpose/event spaces. Many campus libraries host specific research units that are tailored to a collection owned by the library or targeting the research emphasis of an institution, for example the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, or the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst College. Students are now supported in myriad ways by special programs often housed within libraries, such as tutoring, writing, counseling, computer/IT help, math, and green room or practice presentation spaces. And faculty are supported by teaching and learning centers where teachers learn to be better instructors. Kreitzberg Library houses both a counseling center and an academic achievement center. The former supports the emotional well-being of the student population and the latter supports the academic well-being. The academic achievement center is used for specialized testing, tutoring, writing, and general academic support of students regardless of performance level. It helps students to raise levels of achievement regardless of whether they arrive as a struggling student or a high-achieving student. It is also home to the special collections and archives, an important steward of Norwich Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history, and regularly used as a resource for coursework, even hosting classes in the special collections space to review sensitive material. These p artner programs remained, although some were modified to better serve new program needs and continue to be instrumental to the life and vitality of the library. Additionally, the counseling and academic achievement centers are now clustered around a shared


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“commons” area used by students for group study and collaborative work. Testing rooms used by the academic achievement center become group study rooms after hours, making full use of the available space. See figure 13.6.

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Figure 13.6 Norwich University, Kreitzberg Library, photo of commons shared by academic achievement center and counseling center. Photo © William Horne 2015.

The gap in terms of partner programs at Kreitzberg Library was primarily with resources for librarians to teach faculty and students. By filling in two floor areas, Norwich University was able to capture two distinct instruction spaces. Conceived as “sandboxes” or “test beds” for teaching and learning, these two instruction spaces had goals that were very different. On the north side of the library, a new space was developed that was intentionally low-tech (see figure 13.7). Flexible tables and chairs, moveable whiteboard easels, and a simple projector and screen allow faculty to change modes from face-forward lecture to group work on the fly. Because the space is flanked by two group study rooms that can accommodate eight students each, faculty are able to break out small teams to these rooms for group work in the course of class and keep an eye on them through interior glazing. On the south side of the library, a more high-tech active learning space was developed (see figure 13.8). With perimeter flat screens, fixed tables, and flexible chairs, this space enables faculty to share content from the main projection screen out to teams or pull team content up to the main screen.


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Figure 13.7 Norwich University, Kreitzberg Library, photo of north pod flexible classroom, group study rooms beyond in background. Photo Š William Horne 2015.

Figure 13.8 Norwich University, Kreitzberg Library, photo of south pod active learning classroom. Photos Š William Horne 2015.


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Figure 13.9 Norwich University, Kreitzberg Library, photo of café and lounge seating at new entry. Photo © William Horne 2015.

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Although primarily intended for use by librarians for teaching strategies, new technologies, and new pedagogical approaches, both rooms quickly became in very high demand from the faculty at large. The library conducted an RFP process requiring faculty to articulate how they would leverage the specific characteristics of each room in their pedagogical approach. As we have seen with other projects focused on learning spaces, such as our work with Harvard University on a pilot classroom for undergraduate classes at Harvard Hall, a debate ensued among faculty about these two spaces. Older faculty trend toward the more low-tech approach. Younger faculty embrace the technology, and we hear that they are “spoiled for other rooms on campus” as a result. This may sound like a generalization, but it is something that we have heard in our post-occupancy follow-up at Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Norwich University in the past several years. An army marches on its stomach, and so do students. The last allied program that we touch on in this section is the café. Food policy can be a contentious issue in libraries, and justifiably so, with the threat of rodents and the havoc that they can wreak on a collection. However, with libraries dating from the post-2007 era, we do see twentynine of the thirty libraries that we have surveyed allowing food and drink of some kind into the building, even if they required it be covered with a lid, or be limited in some other fashion. In fact, most libraries from the past decade have a café on premises to supply caffeine, light food, and other offerings to students throughout the day and late into the night. Although Norwich University’s predominately military culture is driven in large part by the ritual of “mess hall” and dining at Wise Campus Center, the new café in Kreitzberg Library offers a destination to fill the gaps around routine meals (see figures 13.9 and 13.10).


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Figure 13.10 Norwich University, Kreitzberg Library, photo of booth and lounge seating at new entry, adjacent to cafÊ. Photo Š William Horne 2015.

Service Point and Administration The existing service points at Kreitzberg Library were originally dispersed. A main circulation desk was positioned immediately adjacent to the main entry, with reference desk and other librarians dispersed around the building. The reconfiguration afforded an opportunity to consolidate library administration, which allows for more efficient operations and workflow. Moreover, administrative services are located behind a single service point, where cross-trained personnel are able to answer general questions of all types and reach out to librarians for more specialized questions (see figure 13.11). This approach is mirrored in our database of peer institutions.

Figure 13.11 Norwich University, Kreitzberg Library, photo of centralized service point. Photos Š William Horne 2015.


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Summary Although our database captures other information, such as hours of operation, volumes, periodicals, vintage or renovation history, and detailed notes on partner programs, these four points (addressing quantity and blend of seat type, complementary allied programs, and service point and operations) were the most critical touchstones for our work with Norwich University and central to our planning effort and the transformation of Kreitzberg Library.

Gate Count

Utilization While the library has not conducted a formal assessment of how long each visit to the library has increased (there was little or no data on this prior to the renovation for comparison’s sake), anecdotal information shows a very noticeable increase in “length of stay” for students. A study was undertaken in fall 2016 by the library of student utilization of various spaces. This ranked some twenty-five spaces into three clusters— ten heavily used, ten middle ground, and five least used areas. The most heavily used areas are without a doubt group study spaces of all kinds—rooms, clusters of lounge furniture at whiteboards, and media viewing. Open table areas, booth seating, and soft seating areas fall into the middle ground. More physically isolated quiet study spaces and bar seating in the café were least used.

Instruction Spaces Utilization of the classroom spaces compared favorably to the university average. Utilization rate of all classrooms on campus averages 44 percent of total class time, and the Kreitzberg Library classrooms averages 55 percent. Plus, the classrooms are reserved for many hours for use by librarians for their instruction to faculty and students, which is not accounted for in the registrar allocation. Each semester since fall 2015 has seen an increase in the number of faculty submissions for use of the rooms. Moreover, these rooms are being used as “sandboxes” and exploratory spaces for faculty and administration. Providing an environment where faculty can work with the library

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Although not the only measure, gate count is certainly one indicator of vitality and success. In the two years prior to the renovation, 2013 and 2014, Kreitzberg Library saw year-over-year declines averaging 15 percent. In the fall 2015 semester, the yearover-year gate count in September, October, and November increased by 35 percent, not including almost 7,000 people that entered from the adjoining museum (note: there was not a people tracker on the museum entrance in prior years so we are excluding it from the data set). For the month of December 2015, which of course includes exam period and is historically one of the most heavily trafficked mo nths, th e gate count against the previous year was up 83 percent.

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to explore teaching methodology and approach informs other projects on campus. In the case of Kreitzberg Library, these spaces are being used to evaluate classroom design in advance of renovations to three academic buildings and one major new building on campus.

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Leveraging the Findings We continue to get post-occupancy feedback from Norwich University on the state of Kreitzberg Library: what works, what doesn’t, and speculation as to why. This comes in the form of anecdotal feedback, testimonials, and actual studies of space utilization and gate count. With other work on campus at the moment, we often stop by and look in for ourselves to see things firsthand. For the purposes of our research, we see this as a feedback loop that cycles back and informs recommendations to our clients. As noted above, each institution is unique and no library should necessarily track in line with our database benchmarks one-to-one. It is the overlay of this research, with anecdotal observations, and the unique culture of the place that results in a tailored solution.

Reflection Key Collaborations Throughout the process, we leaned on any number of people at Norwich University. The registrar played a role in evaluating classroom typologies available on campus and where gaps existed, as well as utilization rates. The building committee and library staff had a vision of a revitalized place of research, learning, study, and socialization that could not have been realized in full without their help. The student body has been active in the process, in terms of early surveys, and participating in town hall and design meetings, as well as post-occupancy feedback. The Norwich University facilities team and administration pushed the design team to validate our recommendations through a rigorous peer assessment process in 2012, and that initially set us on a course of research that has added value to our consultancy.

Lessons Learned

• The value of surveys cannot be overestimated. To get well-rounded representation, canvass all of the populations that you are serving (faculty, student, staff, and administration). Questions should be subjected to trial runs and drafts and need to be asked in specific ways. For example, don’t ask people to rate the importance of twenty-five projects. Ask them to spend $100 on twenty-five projects. This way you clearly see what rises to the top, and they are forced to create priorities. • Build adequate time into the construction and training schedule for technology in the classroom. Allow time for installing, testing, commissioning, training, and troubleshooting—all of which needs to happen in a dust-free setting after


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• The pendulum has swung about as far as it can (without snapping off) toward group work, collaborative study, and social learning. Most libraries have retained quiet study floors intermingled with stack space through this trend away from solitary work. Recently, we have begun to see greater reaction to this trend. Libraries have started incorporating quiet study rooms, often nested within more open floor plates composed of group work areas. North Carolina State’s D. H. Hill Library renovation includes a glass-fronted silent room at the first floor along the main circulation spine. This allows for the visibility of the library, while insuring silence—meaning not even keyboard clatter—for those students that need it. • Versatile spaces, easily adaptable from one mode to another while maintaining their intrinsic character, are instrumental to the future viability of the library. • New partnerships are forming every day within academic libraries—classrooms, visualization environments, makerspaces, and digital scholarship, to name a few. • The library should support the student in myriad ways: as a social destination, a home of teaching and learning, and a place of research. It should be a place for people with information in it, not the other way around. Today’s academic library should be an active site of social engagement, discovery, and knowledge sharing and creation.

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construction is complete. Faculty cannot expect to walk into a high-tech active learning classroom on day one and hit the ground running; they need training! • Beyond training, faculty need to understand that teaching in an active learning setting is fundamentally different from the face-forward lectures that they created five years ago and have been tweaking and adjusting since. It is a rethink of how to deliver content to students. Class sessions are composed of recorded lecture content that students watch in advance, short face-forward lectures delivered in class, team projects (digital or analog), group discussion, and individual work. This requires faculty to create new content and build coursework for this pedagogical approach. • A diverse blend of seat types is important. It is equally important to zone and distribute these within the building. The mezzanine should not be all a single seat type—all open tables, for example. Provide a diverse blend of seat types, distributed in a diverse manner, but clearly zoned within the building. • The concept of “see and be seen” so often leveraged in campus centers and other student life settings has made the leap over to libraries. What we refer to as “social learning,” or groups of students sitting together, with multiple devices, working on discrete projects, is dominating library space. So much of this generation is about being together while you are doing things. That is being reflected in the space, furniture, and amenities.

Profile for Jones Architecture Inc.

ACRL Book Chapter: Leveraging Research to Guide Fundamental Changes in Learning  

Rick Jones, AIA, Director/Founder of Jones Architecture, Inc. leverages the firm’s proprietary database of over eighty-five academic librari...

ACRL Book Chapter: Leveraging Research to Guide Fundamental Changes in Learning  

Rick Jones, AIA, Director/Founder of Jones Architecture, Inc. leverages the firm’s proprietary database of over eighty-five academic librari...

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