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Adapting the Library for Active Learning

The library is the academic heart of a school, but just as education is changing, so too is the library. No longer just a place to check out books and build research skills, campus libraries have evolved into a more multi-dimensional space. With information available online virtually anytime, housing countless books has become of secondary importance, freeing up space for individual and group learning.

As libraries have transcended their traditional role, evolving to meet the needs of students has led to some growing pains. Increased computer use resulted in libraries placing computer stations in places like busy corridors with no privacy. Group work areas, for example, were often unintentionally placed next to individual study areas, frustrating both those looking to study in quiet and those who need to collaborate. But with intentional design, adjacency planning, and an understanding of intended behaviors, you’ll be better able to offer a palette of place supports that supports the rhythm of learning.

Focus on the four main styles of work students need: private/alone, private/together, public/alone, and public/together.

Private / Alone

Private/alone study areas offer seclusion for students who need to block out all distractions. A study cave or carrel, like one of our Campfire Half Lounges paired with a Campfire Screen, offers temporary ownership of a space. Plus, these spaces can be equipped with ample worksurfaces to spread out digital and analog materials.

individual privacy spaces are created with corner screens in the office workspace

Private / Together

A private/together space can be used to allow groups to meet regardless of physical location. While they absolutely can be used for large or small groups getting together in person, they should be equipped with access to technology which would allow students to participate in distance learning and webinars. For example, our Bivi desks can be adapted to create a campsite which includes a mounted display for digital information, making it easy to be seen by everyone in a group.

Public / Alone

Working alone doesn’t have to mean being socially disconnected. Public/alone spaces should offer a comfortable place to work, complete with customizable, adjustable furniture and access to technology, while allowing the option for collaboration. Learning benches consisting of long tables or desks and ergonomic desk chairs are an excellent option for these spaces.  

three students collaborate in the library on a project at a small table

Public / Together

Public/together spaces facilitate larger teaching and collaborative activities. These flexible, multi-purpose areas should remove barriers between instructors and students and have access to on-demand technical support to accommodate the technology required for events. Our Campfire Big table offers an integration of furniture and technology which ideally suits these spaces, making it easy to collaborate and share information.

The modern library should be a place where traditional resources coexist with new knowledge resources. By taking the time to plan for a variety of spaces, you’ll be creating a center of interactive learning that’s a broader and deeper resource than ever before.


Are you an educator looking to bring active learning to your library, classroom, or other spaces, but not sure where to get started in your space? Contact our assisted sales team to discuss your project.

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