Libraries for Loitering

Carla Yanni argues in the current issue of the Chron that “all campuses need public places.” in her words:

In addition to inviting undergraduates to public lectures and including them in research projects, another effective way to connect faculty members and students would be to make the physical environment more conducive to informal gathering. Loitering should be encouraged. Lingering should be a positive value.

She also adds that people use designed space in unanticipated ways – that their uses will change the design on the fly. This reminded me of Scott Bennett’s idea of designing libraries for learning – not limiting education to traditional classroom encounters, but enhancing all the social and playful behaviors that support learning outside the classroom. And making library planning student-learning-centered rather than service-centered.

So why not make the library the public place? “The libraries are not lively gathering spots because they have no food” according to Yanni.

Well, some do, and many of them are lively. Is there compelling evidence that banning food is so important it outweighs the benefits? It’s nuts for an institution to spend so much on providing a public space – and then erect barriers that prevent it being used to its maximum advantage.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

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