The design of a library should inspire its users (McDonald, 2010). University libraries are used by a diverse community which consults the library for varying reasons and has different requirements. Libraries sometimes make assumptions about what users want from library spaces, but what users really want might be completely different (Gibbons & Foster, 2007). It is therefore helpful to ask users what they want a particular space to look like.
As part of the Postgraduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies at UCT’s Library and Information Studies Centre, students have to complete a practical space planning project in which they are asked to redesign the interior of a floor of the Library for use by postgraduate students. Taking into account the way in which library space is changing and the needs of particular user groups, but still reflecting the mission of the library, these students (postgraduate students themselves) have to prepare a floor plan illustrating their ideas for the space.
Student submissions have sometimes reflected the need for interactive learning, sometimes for individual quiet study. Other submissions have emphasised the need for comfortable reading areas, or areas with hi-tech resources. Some students considered furnishing, colour and lighting, adding a further dimension to the space that they think would be conducive to postgraduate needs. Collectively, the projects demonstrate the need for a varied space, not one that is a ‘one size fits all’ solution, and provide us with a unique opportunity to see the Library from the student’s point of view.
This paper will present selected ideas put forward by students over the three-year period that the space planning project has been assigned, reflecting on what the projects have said about what library space means to these students and how they would like to use it.