Professional Development

In the 'Designing Libraries II Conference' Category...

Three Conferences = Busy Autumn

Monday, November 23, 2015 5:47 pm

I attended three different conferences this fall, Designing Libraries IV: Designing 21st Century Libraries at North Carolina State University, NCLA in Greensboro and the Access Services Conference in Atlanta, GA. In order to be most succinct, I’m combining posts for all three, though the subject matter ranged quite extensively.

The Designing Libraries conference was chock full of libraries telling the stories of what they did to be prepared for the academic library’s reinvention as place. The presentations are all available online. Story after story of how each library made significant changes to their space that had historically held books. Library leaders, planners and their architects conducted panel discussions from “Creating the Vision,” to “Designing Great Library Environments for Staff,” and “The Role of Makerspaces in Academic Libraries.” Thematically, all of the various speakers identified the importance of making spaces that are flexible, making space for the study and collaboration needs of today’s student, and the need to hire experts to ensure that you will do it right. Renovation is not for the faint of heart.

At NCLA, I presented in two different sessions. The first one on “Developing and Entrepreneurial Library Culture” along with Mary Scanlon and Mary Krautter (of UNCG) was delivered to a very full room. The presentation was one we pared down from the fuller workshop we’d delivered in Abu Dhabi last spring. The audience participated in a lively discussion after the presentation was done. The second session I participated in was one entitled “A Library for the Whole Student: Creating a Multidimensional Culture of Health & Wellness at your Library” along with Meghan Webb, Susan Smith and Hu Womack. We discussed the 9 dimensions of wellness described by our Thrive office, and how the library has partnered in creating initiatives to help. Interestingly, one of the questions asked was about how our “Cans for Fines” program works wherein students can bring in canned goods to eliminate overdue fines from their record. I am continually surprised how things that are so embedded in our culture here are ground breaking ideas elsewhere.

It is rare when one goes to a conference wherein every session is relevant, but that is actually true with The Access Services Conference, held in Atlanta, GA from November 11-13. The featured keynote speaker was Peter Bromberg, a very dynamic speaker with a terrific message about how difficult it is for us to continue to adapt to the pace of change when change is increasing exponentially. He used this great and very funny video to illustrate his point entitled “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to watch it. Other sessions I attended were focused on staff training to maximize customer service, creating a reserve textbook collection, and on using student feedback to redefine library spaces. Much of what was related were ideas we’ve already implemented, so that at least reassured me that we are on the right path. Ellen Makaravage and I took a field trip to tour the Georgia Tech Info Commons. That space was actually highlighted as one of the examples in the first conference and takes me full circle back to that designing 21st century libraries idea.

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!)


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