Document Type

Contribution to Book


Library and Information Science


Academic libraries exist to fulfill the missions of the institutions they serve. Historically, this included maintaining collections in support of courses and curriculum, providing instructional and reference services, and offering space for student study. Decisions about library space design were based on these priorities. However, technological advancements have changed how libraries store and provide access to collections and, as Anne M. Houston (2015) notes, “…the balance of space is moving away from collection storage and toward space enabled to meet other user needs” (84). Library spaces can now meet institutional missions in ways that go beyond traditional expectations, especially in terms of supporting student learning.

Diana Oblinger (2006) affirms “Space—whether physical or virtual—can have an impact on learning. It can bring people together; it can encourage exploration, collaboration, and discussion. Or, space can carry an unspoken message of silence and disconnectedness” (1.1). Designing library spaces that encourage the connection Oblinger describes is prudent for academic libraries because “learning spaces convey an image of the institution's philosophy about teaching and learning” (Somerville and Harlan 2008, 17). Library spaces can enhance the academic experience of students and revitalize the library’s institutional relevancy when design decisions are made through the lens of student learning.

Grand Valley State University’s Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons is designed to meet the institution’s student-centered focus and liberal education 2 tradition. Opened in 2013, the library has been described as a model of twenty-first century learning (Daly 2012, 16). An open, flexible, user-centered design allows students to manage their own learning, engage with others, find support through a variety of services, and discover serendipitous learning opportunities. Reflecting our institutional mission, student learning was at the core of every design decision and continues to be at the center of ongoing assessment.


Original Citation: Meyer, K., & Fisher, E. S. (2017). Designed to meet our institutional mission. In S. Montgomery (Ed.), Assessing library spaces for learning (pp. 73-82). Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries.