Designing Academic Libraries for Student Success

Sep 06 2023
Students studying in an academic library

Countless studies show that students who utilize academic libraries and the abundant resources inside them are more likely to achieve at higher levels, enjoy their research and coursework, and finish their degrees.

Due to their significant role in aiding student success, investing in a well-designed library is a smart move for any academic institution.

When designing any space, it is crucial to keep the objectives and goals of the building in mind. Providing free access to information and knowledge, supporting education and research, encouraging student engagement, and promoting a lifelong passion for learning are just a few of the main objectives of academic libraries.  

There are many ways that architects and interior designers can help academic libraries achieve their goals and increase student success through innovative design. A few central aspects of successful educational library design include:    

Balancing Group Work vs. Individual Learning  

Academic libraries are most successful when there is a balance between collaborative spaces and spaces for individual learning. One of the biggest challenges of designing libraries with both interactive and quiet study spaces is managing noise levels in different areas of the library. The design of independent study spaces must block out the noise from collaborative spaces. Many design solutions can help mitigate noise in libraries. Adding glass enclosures, ceiling baffles, sound isolation technologies, or even dividing group and independent study spaces by floor are just a few ways that design can help decrease disruptive noise.  

Pitt CC Clifton Everett Building Library Renovations

One solution our designers implement to mitigate noise in libraries can be found in the design of Pitt Community College’s Clifton W. Everett Library. The incorporation of lighting fixtures throughout the main lobby and the designated quiet space on the second floor add to the aesthetics of the space, giving the library a modern look and enhancing the acoustics to aid in noise reduction.

Sharing Space with Campus Resources  

Academic libraries often contain more than just the typical resources and services in a public library and serve as central locations for student services, including tutoring centers, information technology, writing centers, and many other programs. These resources are included in libraries because they align with their overall mission and goals. Designers must collaborate with representatives from all services included in the library to ensure that the space is carefully planned and designed to fit their individual and collective needs.

These resources should be interwoven into the library’s overall design. If these resources are all pushed to the back, it will be difficult for users to locate them.

ECU's office of faculty excellence located inside Joyner Library.

East Carolina University’s (ECU) Office of faculty excellence is in the Joyner Library. The purpose of this space is to support ECU’s faculty in their teaching, research, and service through faculty development programming and consultation. This resource is included in the library because it has the same goal of supporting student learning and research. Although this resource is not directly available to students, it indirectly helps students by helping their professors become better teachers and mentors.

Improving Student Engagement 

The more engaged students are – with faculty, other students, and the topics they are studying – the more likely they are to finish their degrees and achieve at higher levels. Libraries engage with students through outreach activities such as workshops and events, by assisting them with research, and by providing them with a comfortable learning environment. There are many ways designers can help librarians further engage with the student population through design. Eye-catching interior design and being able to see and navigate library resources are just a few ways that quality design can increase student engagement. If students can easily find resources and the library looks like a welcoming and comfortable space to study, students will be more likely to choose to go there.

Storing a Growing Collection

Academic libraries house a constantly growing collection of print and digital media. These collections include everything from books to newspapers to DVDs and e-books. When designing these spaces, designers not only have to plan to house current materials but also ensure that the library has space for growth. The planning stages of design are some of the most crucial periods for buildings that house multiple resources and serve several functions. Engaging with the different user groups occupying the space during the early phases of design is key to ensuring optimal storage for all entities.

The stacks at PCC library, an academic library.

Together, we create engaging academic libraries that encourage optimal success.