Category Archives: Spaces&Places

March 18, 2013, 5:41 pm

Merchandising the Circ Desk: the importance of visual cues

As part of an upcoming renovation we’re spending a lot of time thinking about engagement and how to stage positive and productive user experiences. I met with members of our team last week to talk about current and anticipated interactions and touch points within our library.



What’s the visual cue here?

Lauren got me thinking about visual cues. For example, does your reference desk invite people to linger-and-learn or does it promote short discussions? At VT we’re seeing fewer questions overall, but we’re investing more time per person on instructional topics. So the issue becomes: how might we reshape the “getting help experience” to signify and accommodate long conversations?


This applies to circulation too. Much of their activity consists of quick transactions: grab-and-go. But consider…

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February 23, 2013, 8:51 pm

ARCHITECTS ARE DISRUPTERS: building frameworks for change

I had a strange strong emotional response yesterday. It has subsided but still lingers slightly.


Let’s back up. When I interviewed at Virginia Tech one of the duties presented was to lead massive renovations. Unlike others, we don’t have $105$115 million in the bank. The libraries that win design awards are always grand new constructions or sizeable renovations. There should be award for lean libraries, not just landmark ones. Our approach is pure bootstrapping, entrepreneurial, and startup: ideate a need, design a program, hustle the cash, implement, iterate, iterate, iterate.


The past year has been about ideation and program development around our second floor. We’re shaping and funding it bit by bit. The generosity of an alumnus has already given us a start but our students haven’t seen anything yet.


I’ve spoken about the concept with over 300…

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February 19, 2013, 2:40 pm


We’re opening our SCALE-UP classroom today. This is a joint venture between the Library and the College of Science. It was one of the first projects that my Dean gave me upon arrival. We already have two classrooms that are computer lab-based models, but like a lot of libraries, our instructional demands are increasing and we not only needed more space—but a different type of space. The College of Science was also looking for more instructional space so it was mutually beneficial. They already have a successful SCALE-UP classroom – so this is an extension of that effort.


I had my first meeting with them in January 2012—and now thirteen months later we have a great classroom. Not quite startup speed, but it was a complex project. Many people were involved with this—from financing (thanks Provost & COS) to collection reviews and shifting. Our facilities team also kept…

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January 4, 2013, 3:53 pm

SEARCH MORE, PLAN LESS: in defense of 3D printing

Happy 2013. I’ve been intrigued by William Easterly’s searchers/planners philosophy. Here is a good summary:


The searcher admits that he or she doesn’t have the answer in advance and he or she takes responsibility for decisions that are made. The searcher conforms to local conditions and searches for local solutions. (UUB)


The planner tends to overgeneralize and makes assumptions about how things should be before taking unique conditions into account.


I was struck by a dissenting view on the value of 3D printers in libraries. Anytime someone use phrases like mission creep or mission critical to try and squash new ideas then I know they are stuck in functional fixedness. In this view, the role and operation of libraries fits into a nicely defined box and trying to rearrange (or introduce new) components in the box is a challenge because it doesn’t match…

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September 5, 2012, 1:33 pm

What if you’re the Laggard? The story of the SPUN chair

Quick post to get this blog rolling again.


Last week our Herman Miller rep dropped off a SPUN chair for us to try out. As soon as I saw it I had a negative reaction. It was just too silly and impractical. When you spin around in it you feel like you’re going to fall off.


The story could have ended there.


The next day I heard library staff talking about it. They had seen it in the mailroom when it arrived and in the lobby of the Dean’s Office. It was mysterious. It was unusual. It was cool. Had I missed the point?


Like any good startup I knew that we had to test the concept with potential users. We put it out on the main floor and invited students to share their thoughts on Facebook and to tag the library.


Last night we had eight students offer comments, two included photos of themselves in the chair. That’s pretty good for the second week of …

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June 19, 2012, 5:36 pm

THE LIBRARY IS [JUST] A PHILOSOPHY (it’s not about the chairs)

Last week at the New Media Consortium Summer Conference Joichi Ito gave a talk in which he built upon the concept: “the Internet is a philosophy.” It’s not about servers or websites. It’s not about mobile devices or mobile apps. It’s a philosophy. It’s not a technology—it’s a belief system. His presentation was based upon his NY Times essay from last December.

This came up during a recent conversation with  Gardner Campbell. BTW: I recommend reading his Foo Camp chronicles. Basically, everything is a philosophy:

All this stuff is based on a cogitative narrative. They are beliefs that were developed into a tangible concept—but at the heart, at the molecular level, they are still just ideas. Ideas that could be morphed, remixed, or…

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May 18, 2012, 1:59 pm

Target & The Branded Environment: using space to create a discovery experience

Last weekend I went to Target to do a little Mother’s Day shopping and I walked into a branded environment. I’ve written about this before for television and social media, but this example was implemented in a physical space.


Let me backup and say that renovation is in the air at Virginia Tech and I’ve been studying/observing a variety of retail experiences—from service transactions to the display of merchandise to wayfinding to in-store traffic patterns. I’ll share more in a future post, but I think that there is a lot that libraries can learn from commercial enterprise in terms of moving people through space and grabbing their interest along the way.


So Target— they recently launched The Shops. In a nutshell, they selected a handful of regional retail stores and packaged their goods (or you could say they curated their collections) and brought them into …

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February 29, 2012, 7:09 pm

Looking for Landmark Academic Libraries

Library Journal invited me to serve on a panel reviewing “landmark” libraries. Here is the official link.

The core attributes include:

  • design and construction
  • response to campus context and constraints
  • sustainability
  • functionality
  • innovation
  • beauty and delight

This is for new academic library buildings or substantial renovations completed between 2007 and 2011. The deadline to submit is March 20, 2012. If you work in an amazing academic library or if you helped build one — please share it with us.

I have a lot to say about learning environments— but I’m holding off until this competition is over. Where Good Ideas Come From has totally changed the way I think about space, people, and context. I’ll leave it at that for now.

February 3, 2012, 6:01 pm

‘I Need Some Help Over Here!’

I’ve been talking with students about their preferred work/study spaces around campus. The Math Emporium, aka The Empo is one that gets mentioned often. In short: located in strip mall across from campus, bus service, dining and gym in the same complex, 500+ Macs, lots of software, open 24/7, and it has an app. Here is a good descriptive chapter via Educause.


The thing that struck me during the conversation is the assistance service model. Students who encounter a challenging math problem or who have software issues can place a red cup on top of their computer to indicate that they need help. A graduate student or instructor will then approach and provide assistance.


I instantly thought of Fogo de Chão, a great Brazilian restaurant in Buckhead, with tableside service. It works like this: You have a token beside your plate. Flip it to green and your table is swarmed…

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December 15, 2011, 7:55 pm

Student Study Space: the entrepreneurial model (my visit to TechPad)

I saw an ad in Virginia Tech’s sarcastic newspaper for TechPad, an office space located across the street from campus above a busy restaurant. This is how it’s described online:

An open co-working space with common areas for lounging and two conference rooms. Located above PK’s restaurant in Blacksburg, Virginia, is convenient to downtown shops, restaurants and Virginia Tech’s main campus. Over 10 companies currently work in TechPad.

Amenities include: dual wan broadband, month-to-month flexibility, printer/fax, wifi, 10% off PK’s, on-site mentoring, $3,000 of cloud hosting.

I was fascinated by this concept of a 24 hour, co-working, commons environment, which obviously has some library parallels. And if you know me, then you know that I’ve been obsessed with startup culture lately, so I had to go check it out. At VT we are in the initial stages of renovation planning and…

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