What is in this article?:
- Working Together
- Modern spaces
Schools are universities are choosing furniture that encourages collaboration.
Library study rooms, like private offices, are wilting. They are not quite dead; they are just having a difficult time sustaining themselves in a world of mass collaboration hungry for places to work together. An open floor plan with the right furniture can create flexible and easily accessible collaboration spaces that work.
Corporate environments and furniture have adapted to complement evolving working relationships, and school and university environments are following suit.
24/7 collaborative space
Students need space to gather, share ideas, talk, develop common understanding and work to create greater knowledge. This focus on collaboration has put a strain on group study spaces. Students need to collaborate spontaneously, and scheduling time in a study room is not conducive to spur-of-the-moment collaboration. At many education institutions, the availability of safe and flexible, yet comfortable spaces for group work is limited and lacks accessibility.
And it is not just an issue for students; it also is an issue for faculty and staff. Demand is growing for collaboration among teachers and librarians to share experience, expertise and curriculum development so they can meet the rigorous demands of new learning standards. Instructors also are looking for informal space to work with students.
New learning standards require students to perform higher levels of research and problem-solving, use multimedia tools and diverse reference resources, and build new knowledge as individuals and as collaborators on teams. Yet, space to initiate these activities is limited. When new space becomes available, the results can be outstanding.
Some of the furniture needed to create collaborative spaces is readily available. It is easy to divide a large open space with mobile boards or screens, low shelving, temporary storage or simply just open space. Open space keeps the area flexible and easy to modify as educational requirements change.
New materials such as acrylic resin or textured glass create design options for defining space in a more permanent way while enhancing the play of light and texture in an area. Curved or partial walls made of textured resin can add shape and a sense of fluidity to spaces. These spaces are highly visible, yet provide a group of people a clear location to meet.
Furniture vs. small rooms
Floor-to-ceiling walls are not flexible, easily moved or always safe. Study rooms are scheduled continually, making them harder to clean, empty trash or wipe off tables. And once a door or blinds are closed, sightlines no longer exist, requiring staff or security to patrol the area. Another frequent complaint about study rooms is noise; a closed room rarely is soundproof, yet students become louder when using these rooms.
Enclosed rooms seem ideal for multimedia presentation projects. A room with projection equipment, flatscreen monitors, sound or video equipment, speakers and other presentation equipment probably should be reserved. However, other furniture options for managing these types of presentation spaces are available.
A new development in booth seating uses 5- to 6-foot-high backs on lounge seating combined with small, powered conference tables. These contemporary seating options are a much sleeker version of traditional booths and can be used to break up open spaces as well. Elaborate versions come with presentation options built in, providing plug-in features for laptops or tablets to connect to a monitor secured to a panel.
Collaboration areas can be designed by using contemporary furniture. A simple first step is to eliminate a significant number of single study carrels and replace them with two- or three-person workstations with task chairs. Isolated study carrels buried in library stacks have poor lighting, usually lack power outlets and come equipped with an uncomfortable, wooden chair. Today’s students want something different.