Libraries designed for learning

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There are two competing visions for planning for academic libraries. One reflects the extraordinarily successful design paradigm employed for virtually all of the 20th century. The second reflects the design paradigm that is beginning to emerge in the 21st century as institutions come to terms with the implications for learning of fundamental changes in pedagogy and information technology.

These competing visions require us to ask whether readers are information consumers or learners, whether the library’s core enterprise is service or learning, whether the library’s primary mode of operation is transactional or collaborative, and whether in the digital information age, readers should expect to go to the physical library or expect both library services and staff to come to the spaces (including the virtual spaces) where they work and learn. Such polar alternatives leave little room for the nuanced understanding required in actual planning. But they declare forcefully the values and conceptual positions that must be considered in planning an academic library in the 21st century.

As a life-long educator, as the Yale University Librarian (1994-2001), and as a senior library administrator at Johns Hopkins University and Northwestern University, I gained substantial experience with library planning, construction, and renovation. That experience has been immeasurable enriched by the privilege of working with the Council of Independent Colleges and as a consultant with more than 50 colleges and universities since 2004.

Scott Bennett, Consultant
Yale University Librarian Emeritus
711 S. Race, Urbana, IL 61801-4132
217.367.9896