This past Friday a few us from the library, Anna Beth, Jenny and myself traveled to Memphis to visit a few recently built and quite impressive libraries. We brought along with us Jon Abernathy, director of disability services, who not only made the trip more fun but also helped us think about how we can serve those at Union with disabilities. The libraries that we visited were Southwest Tennessee Community College, Rhodes College and The University of Memphis Law Library. Here is a link where you can view all of the photos that I took on the trip. Memphis Library Photos. There are a few things that I take away from the trip. 1) Regardless of how beautiful and spacious the library building, librarians always have to think about how they use that space to best serve the students, faculty and other library users. 2) Traditional and even sacred architecture can help students feel more connected to the their studies and the higher ideals of a university. 3) The final thing is that students want a variety of comfortable seating and study space to interact with peers and with technology.
Library Chess Table
Aside from these major thematic issues of how libraries can be built to best serve a University community there a few things that I saw at these libraries that I thought were cool. One was upscale modular or moveable offices with frosted glass that both maintain privacy and allow the librarian like myself to be available to the public. Another was a chess table in the library. Having a chess table in the library is a great idea in my opinion if it could be well done and used. Outside seating would be nice. There was a roof terrace at the University of Memphis Law Library where students could sit outside on a nice day and study. Finally, a café area that is open late or even all night that provides drinks and food to students as they write those papers and prepare for those exams could be a great use of space. Rhodes College was doing a great job with their café; as you can see below that it was busy. Also notice in the photo the moveable white board. This was available for students to use for group study and I think these are also a great idea.
Busy Library Café at Rhodes College
Overall the trip to Memphis was really eye opening. I am thankful to Anna Beth for giving us this opportunity to experience other library buildings as we think about moving to a new space at Union. I think we learned a lot about the library as space and how we can think about our services to best meet the needs of the Union community. While books will be an important part of libraries for years to come, libraries will also be really interactive spaces that incorporate a lot of group and individual seating and technology. These sorts of things can make the library the heart of an academic community.