Pierce College Library, Ft Steilacoom Campus

Lakewood, WA http://www.pierce.ctc.edu/library/

Laurie Shuster, Reference & Instruction Librarian, lshuster@pierce.ctc.edu

 1. Describe the finished teaching or classroom space, including any specifics about furniture or technology that was included in the design.

The entire library was renovated as part of a large campus wide project that spanned multiple years. The library space tripled in size, including the addition of a second library classroom, and a wide variety of spaces were created to provide opportunities for students to work and connect in many different ways. (Image: Pierce College Library before the remodel)

Pierce College

Pierce College Library before the remodel

Three group study rooms and two conference rooms were added as well as study booths that provide a semi-private group workspace for students without the need to create a structure using walls and doors.

Pierce College

Study booths

Rolling whiteboards and tables and chairs on wheels have been a big hit for flexible group work. Furniture for desktop computers is varied as well. Most computers are positioned on tables that hold 4 computers (2 on each side of the table) and provide a small workspace for students to spread out books and papers. Several larger computer table spaces (configured to have 3 computers in a clover leaf design) were also created so that single students could spread out their materials or allow small groups to work around the same computer. A tall counter (“stand up” bar) is available next to the reference desk for quick use or for students who prefer to stand.

Pierce College

Larger clover leaf computer tables

A mix of casual furniture and more traditional study carrels and tables were included throughout the library in order to enable students to work in different environments as their needs shifted. As often as possible, power outlets were built into the tables, lamps, or upholstered chairs.

Pierce College

Power outlets built into the tables

The library classrooms were intentionally created as a flexible learning space that could be easily reconfigured to suit a variety of activities or events. Tables and chairs on wheels are placed in pods in the main area of the classroom and desktop computers are located around the perimeter of the classrooms. A cart of 20 laptops is stored in the closet of our main classroom and laptops are brought into play in most classes. Librarians have been quite happy with this flexible configuration.

Pierce College

Library classroom

Some “surprise” elements were also included throughout the library, for example, chairs on springs and a bench with legs that are decorated with discarded books.

Pierce College

Bench with legs that are decorated with discarded books

Pierce College

2. What were the goals of the re-design or creation of the space?

We had 5 main goals:

A. Create spaces throughout the library for different kinds of learners and learning environments and to remain flexible as the nature of higher education changes over the next few decades.

B. We wanted people to see a range of possibilities right from the front door. Visibility lines were crucial as well as visual cues to help patrons see what might be found toward the back of the library or down on the third floor. Color coded “ceiling clouds”, built in lighting fixtures, and shorter reference shelving units were key elements.

C. Creating a space that was comfortable, yet inspiring, for students was a guiding factor in the color and furniture choices as well as the signage. Action verbs like ask, borrow, and write were chosen for the main hanging signs and a casual yet energetic font was designed.

D. Strive to choose fixtures, colors, furnishings and fabric that were durable and would age gracefully. Opportunities to remodel are few and far between and need to proceed through a lengthy state funding process.

E. Our college is a commuter school with no residential program. We found that study and work space for students became quite limited as the college grew. One goal was simply to provide students with a clean and comfortable place with sufficient facilities for research and study.

Pierce College


3. What strategies did you use to advocate for student learning and active learning pedagogy in the space?

Pierce College as a whole strongly supports the library. The administration and facilities department welcomed library faculty and staff into the full scope of the visioning, design and construction phases of the project. At the start of the project, library personnel generated our own ideas and objectives about the ways the library space and furniture could enhance the educational experience of students in everything from formal class sessions, to group work, to independent study and research time. We toured a wide variety of libraries, evaluated hundreds of pictures of library spaces, examined furniture at conferences and in catalogs, etc.

A keystone of the success of the project was the relationship that formed between the library personnel and the architectural and interior design team. The architects were committed to understanding the educational function of a library space and to providing advice from an architectural perspective. For quite a while, it was a challenge for all of us to understand each other’s messages, however, touring several libraries together created a bridge that greatly aided our work. During the tours, we discussed features that would work in our space and those that wouldn’t and the reasons why. Then we were able to use those examples in our design conversations and modifications and the process flowed much more fluently and effectively.

4. What lessons did you learn from this experience that you’d most like to share with someone undertaking a similar project?

There are two main takeaways I’d like to share:
– Devote time to touring two or three key libraries with the entire design team. This provides an opportunity to discuss ideas (both good and bad) in a much different context than can be done with a sketch or more formal drawing. It significantly helped our librarians and architects to speak the same language and communicate effectively.
– Having a designated library representative at the table during construction meetings was essential in keeping track of details and changes during the construction process as well as to anticipate when noisy work was to occur and to plan for it.

5. How have changes you made to the classroom changed your teaching? How have changes you made to the classroom changed your instruction programs?

Upgrading from 1 library classroom to 2 has significantly eased our scheduling bottlenecks. The majority of classes are held between 9 and noon and in the past at least several times per quarter we had to turn classes away; now this is a rare occurrence.

Having flexible classroom spaces and laptops provides the opportunity to include a variety of learning experiences during library sessions. It’s easy to spread print materials out on tables and they quickly transition to database searching on the laptops or to have students work in groups. The rolling white boards were a big surprise – they have made group work more engaging for students and they provide a visual aid for students to share their learning with the class and are a great quick assessment tool for the teacher.

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