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A library for the future

January 9, 2018

Team of Herberger Institute students tackled a full revamp of Hayden Library in design project, focusing on form and function

Iconic buildings dot Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.

The Victorian charm of Old Main. The soaring inspiration of Interdisciplinary Science & Technology Building IV. Frank Lloyd Wright’s charming pink wedding cake of an opera house, ASU Gammage.

But there is one structure on the map that, for some, might not make that list: Hayden Library.

Hayden soon will undergo a $100 million renovation, inspiring a team of design students to undertake a redesign of the university’s largest library as their senior project last spring. Their academic challenge — though they are not involved with the actual renovation of Hayden Library — was to reinvent the entrance and concourse level and offer suggestions for the redesign.

Here's what they had to say about the library’s various spaces, what they would do to update them, and what they think about the plan to convert the stacks to an on-demand collection.

The courtyard and lantern

They would change the sunken entryway into an enclosed space.

“You don’t know that this is the entrance to the library, but with our design we’re trying to give peek-a-boo moments where users can see into the space and get an idea before going into the scary dungeon pit that it is now,” said Nicole Hayes, who graduated in 2017 with a bachelor of science in design from Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“Right now, if you were sitting down here in the middle of summer — you wouldn’t be sitting here, because it’s an oven – there’s stone and concrete everywhere,” said Hayes, who now works with a hospitality design firm. “We want to highlight that the library is here with a glass jewel box on top of the courtyard with a new entry experience saying, 'This is where you go to get in the library.'”

The courtyard would become an interior space. The rest of it?

“The library is not protected by any preservation laws, so we could do whatever we want to the exterior,” Hayes said.

Get rid of the stone railings?

“Everything,” said Megan Dibella, another 2017 ASU alumna who particpated in the project. She earned a bachelor of science in design from Herberger Institute and is currently an education and workplace designer.

Including the lantern? Yes, they say. In its place, they envisioned a glass box that doubles as a walkable gallery space where you can look down into the library.

The entrance and concourse

The students also envisioned big changes once you're inside the building, due to both functionality and aesthetics.

“It’s just really unwelcoming in general,” Dibella said. “No one knows that this is the only entrance into Hayden Library. Everything is hard and static. … We all walked in and had no idea we were in the tower. We didn’t know that when you walked down and over that you were in a different building.”

Team member Jenna Woods, who now works with a residential design firm after graduating with a bachelor of science in design from Herberger Institute last year, also found the clarity of the space lacking.

“I was like, ‘How do we get an elevator up to the fourth floor?’” she said.

The team visited to make observations at different times of day to see how students used the library.

“There are so many people who are coming here just to get things done, but there aren’t designated places for that,” Woods said. “They just find space wherever they can, especially during finals week. If there’s an open spot, you go to that spot. … There’s nowhere geared toward specific things.”

More seating is key, Dibella said.

“During finals week there’s never a spot to sit,” she said. Dibella added that the design team's goal was “actually opening up the library and getting rid of all the stacks and having more maker spaces and really creating this place that is a central hub.”

Specialty spaces

The trio wanted to see more spaces with specific functions: maker spaces, quiet spaces, collaboration spaces.

The library already has spaces like that, but they're under the radar for many, Woods said: “If more people knew about them, more people would use them.”

“A big concept of our design is taking what the library is already giving us and drawing attention to it,” Dibella said.

They used colors to denote certain noise levels for certain areas.

“Any time in our plans you see an area in blue, it’s a quiet space because blue is normally associated with calming, more relaxing emotions,” Hayes said. “More high-intensity places like our tech shops or collaborative areas, those are denoted in orange because that’s a more uplifting color that promotes community.”

Promoting community even extends to the basement, which the group thinks needs a makeover.

“There’s tons of storage and filing cabinets everywhere. … Other than that it’s a waste of space right now,” Hayes said.

Their design would open the basement up and make it more welcoming.

The books

This is a hot-button issue.

When the team met with library staff to discuss the project, the librarians mentioned that most people come to the library to get work done.

“As we move into the future of the library, it’s not to come here and get a book anymore,” Hayes said. “That’s not why you go to the library. In my four years at ASU, I didn’t check out a single book, but people come here to study, and so our job was to design spaces that could actually be used for what people are using the library for right now.”

They researched what other libraries are doing with their print collections. Many are turning to ASU’s future model: books stored off-site and delivered on demand.

What the university is doing — maintaining on-site stacks of carefully curated books — is what the team recommended. University Librarian Jim O'Donnell has said the institution is being strategic about the physical books.

"The ones that are housed in open facilities will be carefully chosen to inspire, challenge and support our best work,” O'Donnell said.

As part of the ASU Library's mission to maximize user engagement around print collections, the university recently won a $380,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a three-year implementation project to reinvent the library’s strategy and practice for open-stack print collections. Learn more here.

“They’re keeping some of their special collections here, which is pretty cool,” Dibella said. “There’s a lot of stuff we don’t know that they have, first editions of stuff; that’s the stuff that could be showcased.”

Woods said students still want books.

“That’s what a library is for,” she said. “We wanted to make sure there’s still a balance, that you’re going to the library for something and it’s not just a giant study box. Being able to order the books and have them here and still keeping the old classics is a part of it because it’s still a library and a lot of people requested that.”

Their work was done as their senior studio project in interior design at ASU under the guidance of assistant professor Milagros Zingoni and instructor Brie Smith.

Top photo: Recent Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts alumnae Jenna Woods (seated), Megan Dibella (left) and Nicole Hayes (pictured on Dec. 5) spent their final semester last spring re-imagining Hayden Library and designing it into a library of the 21st century. Dibella is now working as an education and workplace designer, Hayes is working is working for a hospitality design firm and Woods is at a residential design firm. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

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ASU awarded $380K Mellon Foundation grant to design and develop inclusive library print collections


January 9, 2018

Arizona State University has been awarded a $380,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a three-year implementation project to reinvent the library’s strategy and practice for open-stack print collections. The work will enable ASU Library to design and develop inclusive library print collections for ASU Library to engage, educate and inspire scholars and learners of the ASU community.

Under the leadership of University Librarian Jim O’Donnell and Associate University Librarian for Collections and Strategy Lorrie McAllister, the project — titled “The Future of the Arizona State University Library Print Collection: A Collaborative and Data-driven Approach to Stack Design and Curation” — follows a yearlong planning process, supported by the Mellon Foundation, in which ASU Library identified issues and options affecting the design of the next generation of open-stack print collection for a research library.  A student looks at book in Hayden Library bookshelves Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

As libraries adapt to new pathways for organizing information and access in the digital age, institutions face the important challenge of preserving print collections in ways that best serve the public. What becomes of the print collection that users see on open shelves in an age when more and more of libraries’ collections are shelved offsite?

Rather than viewing these new forms of access as a threat to print, ASU Library recognizes a vital opportunity to leverage the design and curation practices in ways that engage a broader spectrum of students and scholars in new ways.

“All the scholarly work of the last generation on the history of the book has shown that physical books have always had many functions and complex social dimensions,” said O’Donnell, principal investigator. “Reading a print volume closely and attentively remains a powerful practice for learning and research at every level, but flipping the pages of a print volume in slightly more than idle curiosity remains powerful as well. Print volumes give visibility and visual character to the past and present artifacts of culture. If ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is a true-enough proverb, then what is in sight will be what is in mind — and we can control that in our libraries. How can we best shape the experience of our users in approaching our libraries by the resourceful use of print?”

“ASU is committed to serving a diverse student body and fostering a community wherein the accessibility of education is a guarantee,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “We look for ways to unlock access to knowledge and information for the broadest cross-section of students in our community, who in turn reflect the diversity of our surrounding communities. This project will not only create a sustainable model for ASU’s print collections lasting into the future, but it will also extend the depth and breadth of our students’ access to information literacy and tools for independent inquiry.”

The vision for revitalizing public engagement with print comes at a key moment in the university’s plans to renovate its largest library — Hayden Library — and grow student enrollment to 200,000 by the year 2025. As a result, ASU Library must rethink every aspect of its services in order to innovate and scale support for scholars and learners who come from a variety of backgrounds and take many approaches to their education.

“Traditional library practices often indicate the retention of books in open stacks according to highest circulation, English language and authors recognized as being part of the mainstream. ASU seeks to create a local collection designed to inspire and engage our users with more inclusive collections that more accurately reflect the user populations within ASU and our surrounding communities,” said McAllister, co-principal investigator. “We aim to keep our open-stack collections as active, living, growing entities. The books our students see on our shelves should not be treated as furniture, wallpaper or relics not to be touched and used, but as a vital set of tools of sustaining value for the future.”

To learn more about ASU Library’s plans to maximize user engagement around print collections, read the ASU Library white paper The Future of the Academic Library Print Collection: A Space for Engagement

Britt Lewis

Interim Communications Director, ASU Library