Student Use of Library Physical Spaces: Unobtrusive Observation of Study Spaces in an Academic Library

Sanjica Faletar Tanackovic, Darko Lacović, Gordana Gašo


Despite the massive impact of ICT on library service provision, academic libraries continue to supply patrons not only with collections but also spaces – spaces for study, research, contemplation and relaxation (Bryant, Matthews and Walton, 2009; McDonald, 2010; Carpenter et al, 2011; Latimer, 2011). In order to understand the role of the 'library as a place' and to gather valuable data on study behaviour of students, that would facilitate the planning process of the new library building at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Osijek University, Croatia, a large study has been underway. The study employs triangulation to answer the following research questions: How are library spaces, collections and equipment being perceived and used? What factors facilitate/impede library use? How could the new library spaces be designed in order to serve the patrons better?
In the paper authors will focus on the qualitative data, obtained with the help of ethnographic methodology of unobtrusive observation, relating to the students' usage of the library study spaces (quiet study room). These public study spaces were observed (and photographed) during the course of one week in different time periods to capture diverse users and uses and intensity of use. Observers recorded any behavior or event that was regarded relevant to the research questions being investigated. The initial results show that varied activities occur in the library study spaces which have not been catered for properly. For example, students are using the library study rooms as an informal meeting place; at peak periods quiet study room is being used for group work; significant number of working places in study rooms is underused because of inadequate table sizes etc.

Keywords: library space planning, library use, user behavior, students, observation



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