My friend and former Norcross High colleague Jennifer Lund and I attended the Southeastern Library Assessment Conference on November 16 that was held at the historic Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. Though we were probably the only school librarians there, we felt welcome and gleaned many pearls of wisdom from the sessions we attended. I was sadly only able to attend Day 1 (Monday, 11/16) due to district meetings I needed to attend on the second day (11/17), but I got MORE than my money’s worth from the sessions I attended. I highly recommend this conference if you are looking for smart, thoughtful perspectives that are grounded in evidence based practice and data collection with integrity. The conference was limited to 125 people and had a pleasant, intimate feel; in addition, we were served a gourmet lunch buffet (it was fabulous) and many delicious amenities throughout the day (Starbucks coffee, tea, water, sodas, cookies). Many thanks to the conference organizers who did a fantastic job with every aspect of the conference—it is by far one of the best and most meaningful conference experiences I’ve had in my career—every session had substance.
This is the first in a series of posts on the sessions Jennifer and I attended on Monday, November 16, 2015.
Space Assessment: How They Use It, What They Want, Sara DeWaay, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Session Description: Getting student input on the library space can be a multi-layered effort. Come hear about the methods used to get an understanding of use patterns, as well as the students’ desires for a small branch library, as we work to transition towards a flexible space.
The emphasis was on users and feedback from students; Sara thought about the feedback in terms of “low cost easy” vs. “high cost hard” solutions and ideas from the students. When she began the group study, she thought of the library space in zones: group study, circulation area, lounge, quiet study, flexible, and creativity. She began by doing a literature review on space assessment, and she focused on both qualitative and quantitative assessment methods. She also looked at space assessment from a “before” and “afterwards” perspective since assessment should continue after the space remodel or redesign is initially completed. She also did research on user centered design. She formed a Student Advisory group; positive aspects of this group included input, support, connection, and ownership for the students, but challenges were maintaining momentum and a sustained sense of meaningfulness for the students after their participation ended. In the future, Sara would try to make sure students received some sort of course credit for participation, perhaps as part of a project based learning assignment related to space design.
She organized a student event where students could come and vote on designs; approximately 40-50 students participated. She basically used big notepads where students could vote with sticky notes on larger sheets of bulletin board or flip chart paper housed on easels. For example:
She also used flip charts to get feedback from students using open-ended questions; she interspersed the flip charts with the buffet of food to “guide” them to this part of the feedback session. Students also had a chance to mark up floor plans; she provided them a variety of tools for doing this activity including crayons, sharpies, ballpoint pens, colored pencils, and regular pencils. Students then could tape their proposed floor plan on the wall. Afterwards, she coded the feedback from the student floor plans using categories like “atmosphere” (and specific elements assigned something like letters A-J) and “physical space” (specific aspects were numbered 1-14). This method of floor plan coding then allowed her to look at the data in a “layered” way (example: 2B).
Another strategy was student surveys. Unfortunately, her sample size of 40 was not ideal, but nonetheless, she was able to ask more detailed questions about services as well as questions about the library in comparison to other spaces in the building. She also had library student assistants help track space use; using iPads and Suma, they were able to gather data and plug it into LibAnalytics to get a better idea of space usage.
Once she looked at all the data, she was able to better understand student needs and could classify possible changes and redesign elements into these categories:
- Low cost/easy to do
- Low-cost/difficult to do
- High cost/easy to do
- High cost/ difficult to do
Unfortunately, the budget for the renovation was put on hold, but if it moves forward, Sara would get faculty input in the future and do similar activities with staff. The major takeaway for me from this session was the idea of space assessment as cyclical—it should be ongoing and is important to do even after you complete a renovation or redesign project to make sure the new space is continuing to work for students or to see what areas of new need/adjustment may be needed. This idea was especially helpful for Jennifer and me since she has opened a new library space, and I’m in the middle of working on a redesign project for the library here at Chattahoochee High.
My next post will be about the second session we attended on battling survey fatigue.