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Grand Valley State University - Mary Idema Pew Library

Every seat is a good seat

Allendale, Michigan

Our design team embarked on an intense visioning process for the new library. We started with benchmarking trips to state-of-the-art libraries across the country, but then, for a more diverse perspective, we expanded our investigation to include retail, museum, and hospitality spaces as well.

We cultivated a common vision with Grand Valley State University—quality of space over quantity of space. From this process emerged the often-used project mantra “every seat is a good seat.”

The Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons has a range of spaces to give students a variety of “place” in the new library. Zones are engineered to separate users with different needs: quiet spaces for those who want no distractions and high-energy zones for multi-taskers and groups who want to be in the middle of a social vibe. Students self-regulate their volume and behavior throughout the course of the day and manage their own learning.

Adjacent to the iconic campus clock tower, this green-roofed building takes advantage of high-performance engineering, natural light, and discriminating site placement in the hub of the campus to achieve a LEED Platinum status.

How can we support learning when class is over?

The vision that “every seat is a good seat” guided our team in the design of GVSU’s new Library Learning and Information Commons.

Transcript of the video follows
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<p>Lee:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; If students really do learn only a small part of what they learn in class, what is the university doing to build environments that support learning when class is over?</p> <p>Janice:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Majority of libraries are filled with books and stacks and more static space. This library is completely flipped on its head.</p> <p>Tod:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A lot of the ambitions for this building were about it not being, “This is what’s going to happen in this building.”</p> <p>Lee:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I used the Great European train stations as a model of people coming into a space and seeing many destinations on the board. To me that was very nostalgic to the journey of a student when they’re on their own learning and as we dived more deeply into what a model like that might look like. We started out with one kind of off the wall idea I brought with me and then we deepened that into something that turned into this. It was an amazing experience of collaboration.</p> <p>Tod:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This notion of activity and vibrancy and gleaning knowledge and, “What does that look like?”</p> <p>Lee:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What kind of building and space did that call for? That if we accepted that the dream was a good dream, the ideas were good, but there was no model. There was no other library that was doing this so we couldn’t go somewhere and see how it was already done.</p> <p>Tod:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We would draw and she would say, “No, I want to see book bags and I want to see pajamas.” Because that’s really what she was in her head. She really saw that this thing was a part of their campus. When we understood those really subtle things it was able to unfold a place for people to lean back.</p> <p>Lee:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It was amazing to me how [00:02:00] it worked. It was a leap of faith at the beginning there’s just no question. On their part and on ours, I think. It took both of us to get to this building.</p> <p>Thomas:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We wanted to create place and space that took into account the changing dynamics of the learning environment. We wanted to create a space that had technology at its core but also a space that would use technology to create the relationships between students and faculty and staff.</p> <p>Lee:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We tried to align the actual environment of the academic library with the kind of environment people choose in all the other walks of their life. We’ve tried to build a whole matrix here where the students can literally tailor this environment to what they need at the moment. And it can accommodate and include all of the habits and the devices that they use to organize their life all the rest of the time. I think that’s the biggest change we’ve made. Noise here is not forbidden. We have quiet places but we have places that are not quiet at all. We let the students sort themselves out around those different spectra and I think that’s going to be a very successful model.</p> <p>James:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We decided to place this structure right in the middle of a pedestrian diagonal that existed on campus. You cannot walk around this building. You can but you can’t ignore it as you walk past it. You can walk through it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

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