Professional Development

Designing Libraries II Conference

Thursday, October 10, 2013 6:59 am

View Toward the Rain Garden Reading Room
View Toward the Rain Garden Reading Room, Hunt Library

I joined Lynn at the Designing Libraries II for the main conference on Monday and Tuesday. It was my first chance to see Hunt Library and all the buzz I’ve been hearing for months was not exaggerated. As Lynn said, it wouldn’t be right for our campus and our students, but it is one impressive space! They have so much interest in the building and so many tour requests that they have a visitor experience librarian! She gave us a fantastic, in-depth tour of all the spaces and services and both Lynn and I have mental lists (probably different ones) of the things we would love to try out here someday.

The conference was excellent. It lasted for a full (read 12 hours) day and a half and we listened to speakers talk on topics ranging from vision to planning to assessment to design to building to operation. We heard from deans/vice provosts, architects, designers, facilities, and faculty. It was very invigorating particularly because we are ready to embark on the capital campaign and have big plans for transforming ZSR Library. The timing was perfect because we are returning with much food for thought and big wish lists! I took plenty of notes and just am going to touch on a few things in this post but would love to share more to those who are interested more details.

The tone of the conference was set by Susan Nutter, Vice Provost and Director of NCSU Libraries. Since she first arrived at NCSU 25 years ago, she had planned for a new library, and developed a grand vision. Now she has results that are wildly successful. Some of the big points I took away from her talk:

  • They have a “just do it” environment rather than one where things are studied for years. Staff are encouraged to take initiative and do things. She referred to operating in “student time” meaning a quick turnaround time on implementation.
  • Staff was key and this was done by changing the kinds of people they hired – position by position. They sought people who brought skills from other advanced degrees instead of library degrees. They looked for digital library skills, sci-tech backgrounds and people interested in management and leadership. They hired an in-house architect and interior designer.
  • Their fellows program helped recruit and became a game changer.
  • Their faculty and students own the library.
  • They used a design contest to select their architectural firm.
  • They reached for the stars on their technology plan.

Hunt Library Game Lab
The Game Lab at Hunt Library

Joan Lippincott from CNI (Coalition for Networked Information) provided some challenges and opportunities for planning new learning spaces.


  • It’s not just about the spaces. You have to bring together spaces, technologies, services and content.
  • Many staff need new skills to provide services in learning spaces
  • Staff need to break out of silos and work in teams
  • Outreach and promotion is important


  • You will be creating something that will engage students in deeper learning and preparing them for the work of research, business, public service and the arts
  • You will be celebrating the innovation and creativity of your academic community
  • You will realize the potential of collaborations and partnerships

She also recommended actions to take when planning

  • Involve newly tenured faculty in the planning process. They are closer to today’s academic environment and have the pressure of tenure track behind them.
  • Develop use cases for specific areas of the facility
  • Think about how new library spaces can enable curricular change

I was introduced to the Learning Space Toolkit and want to explore it more thoroughly to see how we might use it as we move forward.

I’ll end back on one of the big themes of the conference and that is the importance of vision in the process. It should be bold, it should be formulated early in the process and the leadership needs to believe it, explain it, defend it and get it right! We have been working on developing a vision for ZSR Library over the past two years. The WFU community will see our vision shortly as it is unveiled in the next few weeks. What we have at this very early stage is this core concept that we believe is right for our community’s future needs from a 21st century library. This conference was timed perfectly as we launch into the process to turn this vision into reality. It’s an exciting time!

Lynn and Susan Trying out the Furniture

Lynn and Susan at Hunt Library (photo by Lauren Pressley!)


3 Responses to “Designing Libraries II Conference”

  1. This sounds amazing. I feel we are on the brink of a similar library design renewal project-different in scale (and funding)-but just as exciting.

  2. As an “Arranger” this post makes me very happy! I think Craig is right, this is an exciting time for ZSR!

  3. I want to hear more! This is great stuff. Thanks, Susan.

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