I’m presenting a poster at the CAIS Conference on Wednesday, June 3 on some of the work I’ve been doing on student use of library space. I tried to limit the wordiness of the poster, so am including the background information here. I still have to check with the organizers about whether I can post a copy of the poster here after the conference, but if not I’ll give some high-level findings. [Update: Here’s the poster “Student use of library space: Where are they when, and why?“]
Our newly renovated library includes a great new space for undergraduate research (the Discovery Centre), which is administered outside of the library. Work is being done to evaluate the use of that space and I wanted to make sure that the rest of the space in the building was also being evaluated. Reading the literature about library space, I saw that many evaluations of space happen at a single point of time or, if they recur, a few times over a single day, or the same time of day over a single week. I knew that the use of our building changed throughout the day and throughout the term. I wanted to look at how the various spaces in our building were being used, and see how that use changed over time.
I started with pretty basic seat sweeps, using a floor plan and tracking where people were sitting and if any group work was being done. Happily, this was quickly taken over by the library’s Stacks staff as part of their regular routine. They did sweeps of all five floors of the library morning, afternoon, and evening, Monday to Friday from the beginning of November until the end of April. I analyzed that data, looking particularly at any trends that emerged around time of day or over the course of the term.
(The sweeps involved stupidly labour-intensive data collection, data entry, and data analysis. There is definitely a better way to do this. Libraries at NCSU and GVSU have some great models, but I knew that taking the time to investigate and adapt these to my own library would push the data collection even later in the school year, so I chose more difficult data gathering sooner rather than more efficient data gathering later. I find it easy to postpone projects when I know I can’t do them “the right way” but in this case I decided to Just Fucking Do It.)
At the same time, I was part of another project to evaluate how students were using the space in the Discovery Centre and the rest of the library. Part of that project included a questionnaire, and the poster includes selected results from that – mostly around group work. I wanted to include results from photo elicitation in the poster but wasn’t able to get enough participation this spring. I hope to get that part done this fall.