University community hip to the Library Square

University community hip to the Library Square

October 29, 2014


[Library Square]
Students use the temporary Library Square outside Stauffer to study and socialize. 


Street level patios outside Stauffer Library -- a key recommendation within the Library and Archives Master Plan (LAMP) -- recently came to life for several days thanks to two urban and regional planning students.

Molly Smith (MPL’15) and Shazeen Tejani (MPL’15) worked with Library staff to set up tables and chairs outside Stauffer Library Oct. 16-18 and observe how people used the space differently with outdoor furniture in place. Ms. Smith had the idea for the research project after establishing a similar “pop-up cafe” last summer during an internship in Cornwall.

“There was a lot of tension before the project. We were worried it might fail. It was nerve wracking,” Ms. Smith says. “However, I felt really good after because people seemed to enjoy the tables and chairs.”

LAMP, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2013, envisioned the development of a new, major, public open space on campus at the intersection of Union and University. The Library Square would be an accessible and inviting place for social interaction and special events throughout the year that wouldn’t jeopardize traffic and service vehicle flow on campus.

Based on their observations and anecdotal feedback, the young researchers believe the temporary Library Square had the intended impact.

“Students appeared excited to be studying and socializing outside, especially on Thursday when the weather was nice. There aren’t many spaces like it on campus,” Ms. Tejani says. “We also found that the space accommodated people of all ages. There were students as well as professors, families and young children. It was nice to see everyone using the space on a university campus that we usually think of as having an overwhelming student presence.”

The Library was keen to support the students’ research project, says Martha Whitehead, Vice-Provost and University Librarian. The students’ research interest fit nicely with the Library’s plans to set up a few tables and chairs outside Stauffer for alumni to stop and chat during Homecoming weekend. The students worked with the Office of the University Librarian to arrange the set-up on a normal weekday, as well as on Homecoming weekend.

“It brought a whole new feeling to the corner, making it a gathering place," Ms. Whitehead says. "The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive and we're excited about the possibilities."

The students continue to analyze the data and the video they shot of the space over the three days. Their final report will examine and offer recommendations for creating permanent social gathering spaces at Stauffer Library and other locations on campus.

People who stopped by the temporary Library Square during Homecoming had the opportunity to view a new video that features students and faculty members talking about the potential impact of the Library and Archives Master Plan. See the video below and visit the LAMP website for more information about the plan.

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