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Library design: Six elements of a successful process

by Janette S. Blackburn

Transforming an academic library starts with integrative planning, and includes an expanded user mix, new partners, and far-reaching stakeholders. Here are six strategies to create and foster a dynamic, inclusive planning process.

  1. Map the journey
    Think of your process as a travel guide for your journey and the destination is the completion of your library project. Plan for unexpected stops and side trips along the way, but keep the destination in sight.
  2. Make it open and collaborative
    Use the process to harness different perspectives, create a campus-wide buzz, and build buy-in. Seek input early and prioritize communication throughout the project. Don’t underestimate the need to do this, even on small projects.
  3. Mix it up
    Combine stakeholder groups in different ways to find common ground. This will also highlight discrete interests that must be addressed through a more narrowly focused feedback loop.
  4. Leave the building
    “Power users” may be easy to reach, but don’t overlook more casual users. Reach these groups by going where they are, whether they’re studying in the local coffee shop or working out at the gym.
  5. Work with the calendar
    Know an institution’s rhythms and their impact on feedback. Summer can be good for focused work with staff. Fall is the best time to begin initiatives with a campus community refreshed from summer break, and alumni weekends offer opportunities to build community support. Treat grading periods and commencement as blackout dates.
  6. Ask, “How bold is it?”
    Projects that “break the mold” through dramatic transformations of program, partnerships, and spaces are best served by a more intensive effort, with input from a diverse mix of stakeholders, and iterative cycles of observation, playback, and synthesis throughout the design process.

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