University Library replaces Reference Room with new study lounge


Sarah Nelson/Daily Senior Staffer

A sign outside the new reference room in University Library welcomes visitors to the redesigned space. Some of the reference materials were moved from the room to create more collaborative spaces for students.

Danny Kelleher, Reporter

After a summer renovation, University Library has replaced what was once the Reference Room with a modernized study lounge known as “1 South.”

Located in the library’s first floor, the area was designed with input from students in the Segal Design Institute’s Spring 2013 Design Thinking and Communication class as well as general feedback through on-sight polling, said Geoffrey Swindells, user experience librarian.

“One of the things that’s happening in libraries across the country is the move away from traditional space for printed materials — not completely, we still have lots of them — to take advantage of some of the more light-filled accessible spaces to support a different way of learning that most students are undertaking nowadays,” Swindells said.

Northwestern budgeted $525,000 for the project, Swindells said. The revamped room is now equipped with widely available power outlets, individual work booths and a multitude of differently shaped and sized tables that Swindells believes support “a wide range of activities and work styles.”

“It’s a lot more collaborative in nature than in days past when there was sort of that single person with one book at a time,” Swindells said. “The idea was to form that first-floor South space to support that kind of collaborative activity.”

At the moment, the university’s reference books are no longer consolidated in one location. Swindells said the heaviest portion of the reference collection was moved into the library’s periodicals room, while some of the lesser-used material will soon be integrated into the stacks of books eligible for students to check out.

Weinberg senior Danny Schuleman said he didn’t find the lack of a centralized reference collection to be very concerning for his studies.

“I never used the reference books, and most of my friends who came in here would just come to study — not to use reference books,” Schuleman said.

Some students expressed concern with the new changes. Medill junior Chris Johnson said he was disappointed to see the Reference Room go.

“The Reference Room was pretty much my go-to place for studying,” Johnson said. “It had big tables, comfortable chairs and was always quiet.”

Several students in the lounge also expressed confusion over the expected conversational volume of the space, which they said currently feels almost silent, and the uses of the vast areas of open space. Swindells said more furniture will be added to the space by the end of October.

But as students continue to use 1 South, University Library staff hopes to receive feedback on how to improve the new lounge. Swindells said a more formal assessment of the space will begin next week.

“This is designed to be a very flexible space,” Swindells said. “As time goes on, we will be asking the student body to tell us what’s working, what’s not and what they’d like us to change. This space will support those kinds of changes.”

Joseph Diebold contributed reporting.

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