Symposium at Duke Kunshan Explores the Leading Edge of Library Design | Duke Kunshan University

Symposium at Duke Kunshan Explores the Leading Edge of Library Design

October 31, 2016

How do students and faculty in the 21st century use libraries? What should a modern academic library look like? How should libraries be designed/renovated to deal with the multi-faceted user needs? Oct. 28, over 130 academic library managers, researchers of library space design, and architects with experiences in designing academic libraries from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and the United States gathered for the international symposium on "The New Academic Library Space in the 21st Century" held at Duke Kunshan University, to explore the cutting edge of library space design.

The library is the center of learning and research in all universities. It is also the basis for academic endeavors and scholarly exchange. For centuries, academic libraries have generally been designed first and foremost as places to collect, access, and preserve print collections. However, with the role of libraries shifting from being repositories of collections to the place where learners and researchers meet, collaborate, and interact, traditional library buildings are increasingly challenged today for their inability to cope with the rapidly-changing needs of their clienteles. To better address these challenges and to prepare for building a stand-alone library in Phase II construction plan of the Duke Kunshan University, Duke Kunshan University Library organized and held the international symposium to conduct a comprehensive scan of the major trends in designing state-of-the-art academic library space in the new century, according to the Symposium Organizer Committee Chair, University Librarian of Duke Kunshan University Library and Associate University Librarian for Duke Kunshan University Library Services at Duke University, Dr. Helen (Hong) Xu.

“As an international community for knowledge exchange that encourages diversity and innovative learning, Duke Kunshan University aims to build an innovative global academic community that connects outstanding students and faculty members from around the world,” said Chancellor Liu Jingnan in his welcome speech. “Building an academic library that is able to meet the various needs of users and accommodate research needs of both science and humanities has become a catalyst for achieving this goal.”

Designing Academic Library: the Programmatic Aspects

Bryan Irwin, architect and partner at Sasaki Associates, described library of the 21st Century as “the third generation academic library”. The first generation libraries are based on the idea that books need to be carefully protected in libraries and users are more focused on one on one interaction with materials, Irwin pointed out, while the second generation academic libraries have integrated the role of emerging technology. The programmatic design of the third generation academic libraries, however, is greatly shaped by users’ various needs to find study spaces that support the full spectrum of learning, and by the blended library staff roles and responsibilities.

Building a third generation library can be tough, but upgrading an existing library to meet the needs of third generation users can lead to even more challenges. Ann Elsner and Robert Byrd, Associate University Librarians for the Duke University Libraries presented a case study of the expansion and renovation of Duke University Libraries and shared with the audience the lessons learned from the experience. Drawing upon their experiences of expanding and renovating the three libraries, they emphasized the importance of developing a comprehensive and far-sighted master plan, and being persistent and patient. Meanwhile, they also pointed out the ever-evolving nature of academic libraries, “always expect spaces to continue to evolve, and be open to rethinking and repurposing them as user needs change.”

Charles J. Greenberg, Library Director at Wenzhou-Kean University and James Lu, Principal and Managing Director of Perkins+Will, China, also delivered a joint presentation to introduce the five relationships as guidelines for the design plan of the Wenzhou-Kean University Library. In the speech they elaborated on the harmonious relationship between the collections and spaces, as well as their multi-function rooms, such as scholar salons, lecture rooms and 24-hour study spaces.

Trends in Academic Library Space Design: the Architectural Aspects

At Temple University, the architectural design of libraries is more than a matter of aesthetics. “As Craig Dykers, the architect behind Temple University’s Paley Library said, a building’s exterior must provide the visitor with a mental map of its contents before entering the building,” said Joseph Lucia, Dean of Temple University Libraries, who showed the audience photos of the Paley Library from different angles to illustrate how the architectural structure of the library reflects its functions. “The archway-like front gate of the library embodies its function as the gateway to knowledge. Our goal is to create an active site of social engagement, discovery and knowledge creation.”

Lucia’s point on the relationship between design and function was echoed by Peter Zhou, Assistant University Librarian and Director of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library at the University of California, Berkeley. “One of the challenges we encountered when designing and constructing the C. V. Starr East Asian Library is that the architectural structure of the library should reflect our cultural values and epitomize the East Asian studies,” he said. Zhou also introduced how the library was built to fit into the campus environment and create an eco-friendly campus core.

As one of China's flagship universities, Peking University is also known for the long-standing history of its libraries. Hongyang Zhang, Head of Special Resource Center and Research Librarian at Peking University Library, and Qiang Zhu, University Librarian at Peking University Library, gave a detailed introduction to the history and reconstruction of the Peking University Library, as well as the support and input gained from Peking University students and faculty members.

The Learning Commons, IT, and Furniture

Linda Daniel, Associate University Librarian at Duke Kunshan University and a Subject Librarian at Duke University Libraries, gave a detailed introduction to the Edge, the new research commons at Duke University Libraries. “The purpose is to create a space to expand and enhance interdisciplinary research support,” she said. She also talked about the space programming of the Edge, and shared with the audience how the learning common and furniture supported some really innovative research programs and workshops held in the Edge.

Hua Liu, Deputy Director at Shanghai University Library and Professor at Shanghai University, presented a case study of how Shanghai University renovated its library to create more space for users. She recounted the various challenges the university encountered during the renovation process, and shared with the audience the key results the team achieved.

Foster Zhang, University Librarian at Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, centered his speech on the theme of “Space as a service--Shift in library technology, furniture and space planning”, and talked about how to incorporate emerging technology in space and furniture design.

The symposium also featured a poster presentation session, during which 6 librarians, researchers and architects shared their insights into library design and presented on various topics including space planning, learning commons and technology.

The event was sponsored by multiple sponsors.