User experience and the research library space: current practices and approaches

Transforming research library spaces to meet the needs of diverse user communities has been an important part of the strategic agenda of many institutions over the past few years. As a response to the demand for user-friendly, flexible and innovative spaces to support academics, students, and other community members, new buildings have emerged and existing spaces have been renovated or repurposed across several research libraries.

This event looks at the current practices and approaches employed by institutions to enhance the way users experience the research library space; from facilitating learning and scholarship to offering new ways to engage with collections. Presentations focused on recently completed or on-going projects, the opportunities they present for institutions as well as the challenges that designing with the user experience in mind entails.

Pride of place: the Research Collections Study Centre at the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin
Laura Shanahan, Head of Research Collections, Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin is in the throes of the enabling phase of the redevelopment of its iconic Old Library, home to the famous Long Room and the Book of Kells. The Old Library is also home to the wealth of other outstanding historic, and contemporary, unique and distinct collections, and accommodates researchers and students from home and abroad wishing to access to this material in a reading room in the upper pavilion. As part of the redevelopment project, a new Study Centre and seminar space will be located, instead, on the ground floor, taking the full north side of the Old Library. This is pride of place on campus – facing out onto its main public square, in a welcoming, awe-inspiring environment, befitting the significance of the collections. Laura presents on the current plans for the new Study Centre, and place this space in the context of a multi-stakeholder building.

Laura Shanahan is Head of Research Collections at Trinity College Dublin, with responsibility for Manuscripts, Archives, Early Printed Books, Maps, Music and Special Collections. A qualified librarian with twenty years’ experience, she has led on a variety of service transformation, collection management, digital and estates projects. Laura joined Trinity in 2018, having relocated from Scotland.

Head Space in the Library – using UX and student partnership to develop the research space
Carly Sharples, Head of User Experience, University of East Anglia.

This presentation focused on the recent creation of a new space for students in UEA Library, and also explored some of the UX activities we have undertaken to better understand our student usage and needs within our library spaces. ‘Head Space’ was an initiative that arose from student feedback regarding the need for quiet and calm student spaces on campus. It was originally conceived as a wellbeing room, but this brief developed into a much more open, student-directed relaxation space. It has since become the inspiration for creating other student-orientated spaces on campus.

Carly Sharples has worked in libraries for 15 years, working in both public and higher education libraries, and undertaking leadership roles at Norwich University of the Arts and now at the University of East Anglia (UEA). She is motivated by the desire to facilitate student-led engagement with library services, whether that be through student-led teaching approaches, co-creation of services with students or learning more about the student experience through research and UX based activities. Her current role enables her to focus on providing a high quality user experience for all user interactions with the library, whether physical or digital. She is passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education, and leads on this area for UEA Library.

About RLUK’s Space Programme

This meeting is part of RLUK’s Space Programme, a series of events and resources to explore and support its members around spatial redesign and capital-build projects. The programme provides a forum through which colleagues can share their knowledge and experience in a collegiate and supportive environment.

Previous events:

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Research Library Space

Library spaces in the campus of the future 

Hybrid and blended working approaches and the role of space in libraries