SENATE COMMITTEE ON LIBRARIES, INFORMATION SYSTEMS, AND TECHNOLOGY
Library Space Planning
Implementation: Upon Approval by the President
This Advisory and Consultative report was prepared by LIST at the request of the Chair of the University Senate with the charge to review library space planning, considering the priorities of student workspace needs and the digital access and physical storage landscape for the Paterno/Pattee Library facilities at University Park. In preparation of this report, the members of LIST made multiple site visits to the off-site storage facilities of the University Library as well as to the Paterno/Pattee facility.
Central Role of Library in Research University
In a research-oriented University, the Library is the single most enduring component: multiple generations of students and faculty rely on the library for study space, learning space, and knowledge connections for current and past information research. Over time, the Library serves succeeding generations of faculty and students and is cumulative in character: the accessions of one generation form the research foundation for those that follow. As such, library administrators, faculty, and staff must plan for the future and make critical decisions regarding space utilization, materials access, and increasingly, the physical storage of materials and resources in a transformative, digital environment. In a research environment, the Library is a critically important resource on creative, collaborative, physical, and digital fronts.
Challenges Confronting the Penn State Library
Given the rapid changes in digitally available resources and limited space on central campuses, many of these challenges discussed are common to University libraries throughout the country. Among the most salient are:
- Collection development. Although Penn State recently celebrated its 160th anniversary, the Library collections and the multi-disciplinary research mission of the University are comparatively recent in origin. The strength of the 6.5-7 million volume library lies in recent materials more than older acquisitions. For older materials, the Library relied principally upon microforms and digital resources. Of the latter, some sources are physically available at Penn State; however, the great majority originate from sources outside the University, through purchase, licensed rental, or open access resources.
- Collection access. Access to Library holdings is directly contingent upon storage facilities. The majority of these materials are full text searchable through library portals and physically available to all users. For reasons of space efficiency, some of these materials are moved to off-site storage units. Such materials are accessible through online catalog resources and search engines and physically available to users upon request and usually deliverable within two days.
- Special Collections. These materials are available through online catalog resources and search engines, with access closely supervised under custodial arrangements, specially-designated curators, and specially-designed storage facilities. High priority collections have been digitized and are continually evaluated in the libraries’ digitization program to make content widely accessible.
- Reader and other user capacity. Of all the libraries in the University system known to LIST, Paterno/Pattee appears to be the unit that approaches or exceeds seating capacity, particularly during the afternoon and evening hours on most, if not all, days of the week. This includes seats supplied with University computers as well as carrels or tables where students may bring their own laptops. During high use times, some students sit on the steps in the stacks. It is not determined whether student occupancy at these high levels reflects the attractiveness of the library study environment or directly relates to the ability to access physical materials, on-line resources, and technology and collaborative resources specific to the library.
LIST does not have comparative data, for example, on the use of the Student Union premises and whether students using seats in the Library are performing tasks that could as easily be performed elsewhere. We have no breakdown on undergraduate/graduate student/faculty use of Paterno/Pattee.
Nevertheless, LIST has been advised by the Library that, since 2010, 646,172 volumes have been removed from public spaces at University Park and certain Commonwealth locations. These volume removals are done with a priority to create more student study space and collaborative environments with multimedia access. Examples provided by the Library include:
- The Tombros McWhirter Knowledge Commons in Pattee Library
- Expanded student study space in the Schreyer Business Library on the third floor of Paterno Library and the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library
- The construction of two classrooms for dual campus and library use at Harrisburg
- Expanded study space and a wireless group study room in the Eiche Library at Altoona
- A new student study space on the ground floor of Kelly Library shared with student services at Greater Allegheny
- An upcoming One-Button Studio and two group study rooms at Hazleton
- An expanded student study space at Wilkes-Barre
- Partnerships with student services in library facilities at Behrend and Brandywine
The Tombros and McWhirter Knowledge Commons opened in 2012 and features state-of-the-art study and collaboration spaces accompanied by library and technology-based services. Additionally, the IT Help Desk and the Media Commons were relocated in the Knowledge Commons. As part of the project, the Barbara Franklin Atrium was renovated, adding additional seating. These renovations serve as the model for many subsequent projects and plans.
To facilitate continued reallocation of on-campus space and consolidation of off-site collection storage, the University authorized purchase of a property on Sandy Drive which is now called the Science Park Library Annex. Once renovated, this property will house Special Collections, Archive materials, and the Conservation Department. Purchase of this space will facilitate moving a number of collections and staff in the Pattee and Paterno Library, resulting in expansion of public space. Once the Science Park Library Annex is completed, the Libraries will permanently vacate the collections located in Scientific Stores.
Additionally, there are the usual external risks of human use of physical materials: abusive use by readers, including the physical mutilation of books, accidental liquid spills, theft, as well as larger calamity events including flood, fire, or other environmental damages to the larger Library infrastructure. Historically, Penn State collections have experienced loss from these kinds of actions and events.
Microforms and digital resources also have inherent lifespans and deterioration concerns. Microfilms acquired in past decades are coming to the end of their useful life; although microfiches, if of archival quality, have potentially longer lifespans and stability. The ability to convert these mediums to digital form is often constrained by intellectual property rights. CD-Rom and DVD resources are known to be unstable mediums with lifespans averaging 5-25 years, depending upon the disk composition. Early digital resources may be superseded by technological advances that can render the earlier versions inaccessible and often non-convertible to more modern formats. Digital files on the file serve also need active preservation to prevent from digital deterioration and file format upgrades.
It is important to note that the majority of digital resources are not in directly owned by Penn State and are leased or rented from commercial, government, or academic sources. Because the direct ownership is not the Penn State Libraries, longer-term access to these resources is controlled and potentially threatened by the licensor. Access risks include downloading restrictions, licensing limitations, service interruptions, textual manipulation, scanning defects, database hacking, and financial insolvency of the archival entity. For these reasons, it can be very important for Penn State to maintain its own physical collections of some materials that are now digitally available; however, this is not always the case. Penn State Libraries participates in several robust national preservation systems for digital resources in case publisher access is no longer and many digital resources are owned outright.
The virtues of microforms and digital items are considerable: in some instances their longevity may be longer than the originals. They are relatively convenient to store, being in a “micro” or digital format. Digital format, in particular, offers search resources that enable the materials to located using keywords, phrases, or content domains. These digital formats allow fast, efficient scholarly research in comparison to traditional manual searches. They are also easily distributable, and they offer economies and shortcuts to publication in print and/or digital form. Unless subjected to self-imposed (usually commercial) restrictions or copyright limitations, they can be open access and available to all assuming they survive the risks enumerated above.
Off-Site Collection Storage Arrangements
The Library presently uses four off-site storage facilities within close proximity to Paterno/Pattee. It is noted that one facility was below standards and will be replaced by a more suitable facility during Spring 2017. Collectively, these facilities are purposeful, but less than ideal; some are in leased buildings, others are owned by the University, but adapted for temporary book storage use. If substantial financial resources were available, an ideal situation would unite the four off-site storage facilities into a single, purposeful designed facility, with closer proximity to main campus.
Two issues arise: (1) what should be the proper relationship between off-site library holdings and on-site open stack library holdings in a digital age; (2) what should be the proper relationship between off-site storage facilities and the faculty or departmental libraries other than Pattee/Paterno within the University system? The second question is beyond the scope of this Report, although our responses to the first question would affect answers to the second.
The many virtues of the digital age are discussed in this report. Digital materials are readily accessible by users, that convenience is immense, and there is a reduction in the use and therefore, wear and tear of the original items, potentially extending their longevity. For some materials a “virtual” library is created, accessible from around the planet. Users may search for items they know exist online or through various search engines seeking materials otherwise unknown to them. Online searches can identify relevant research materials purely by the serendipity of the search and lead researchers into enormously productive paths of inquiry that would not ordinarily come to mind or would be physically possible.
These virtues considered, searches are limited to what is available online and to the connections made, or potentially not made, by the computer or search algorithm. Productive lines of inquiry can be missed by digital resources, especially if relevant materials are not digitized, included in a database, or included in the design of the search algorithm.
Experienced researchers who rely upon traditional print materials are aware that, apart from subject-organized card catalogues, footnote references in other works, or standard bibliographies, physically scanning the shelves with the trained eye can generate finds and relationships of immense value. Off-site storage limits this dimension of research – out of sight, out of mind. The ideally, one huge library in which all holdings are on-site would be preferred; but practically, such libraries are few and far between, especially with large academic institutions with an expansive research profile. The next best option would be a library with substantial on-site capacity and an off-site facility that properly preserves collections and is accessible to users for viewing the shelves, but has minimal work space.
Under present circumstances at Penn State, off-site storage is distributed among four facilities and faculty and students have access to these materials by request. The principle access issue might simply be education and marketing: making it clear to interested faculty and students that if they wish to view the off-site materials, this can be arranged. Currently, this library access amenity is not widely known or used.
Additionally, off-site materials are not shelved in the sequence that would be observed if they were held on-site, in large part because the off-site facilities are maximizing storage efficiency over immediate access and perusal. Again, in a perfect world, a single, large off-site facility would enable the Library to undertake a cohesive re-shelving arrangement that could integrate collection structuring, spatial storage optimization, and access and find the appropriate balance between these goals.
At present time, the Library is able to retrieve items from the off-site storage upon request from users with reasonable expedition and efficiency, so long as the user knows precisely which materials are desired. However, an important limitation of the current off-site storage arrangement is access to materials is challenging if the user does not know precisely what he or she wishes to retrieve or instead desires to preview the range of holdings.
Awareness of Library Resources
Off-site storage exacerbates a problem inherent to libraries generally: what does the library have that may be useful to researchers. The primary issue is off-site materials are not routinely available to be consulted on the spot by someone who is seeking relevant materials. It follows that few individuals know what has been moved off-site and therefore what the true holdings of Penn State actually are, although all holdings are listed and can be requested through the online catalog regardless of location. Guides to collections can help and presumably include on-site, off-site, and digital materials. Special collections are received and integrated into library holdings. Digital materials annually enhance their coverage, improve their software, and become more accessible or user-friendly over time. Keeping pace with these changes is the responsibility of every scholar, although there is no straight-forward, systematic method for doing so, and methods can vary according to discipline.
Advisory and Consultative Recommendations:
- LIST endorses the current Strategic Plan of the Library for the next planning period and supports the priorities identified in that Plan. Many of the near-future projects, identified below, will generate additional student space, collaborative learning opportunities, and technology access, are not generally known by students and faculty. Given the important public presence of the Library, LIST strongly recommends the Library to promote these projects, both on-line and on-site to enhance public awareness.
LIST recognizes the Library plans to undertake a number of important projects in the immediate future that will increase and expand undergraduate student space and technology access. LIST strongly recommends their awareness and promotion:
- Planning and construction of the Central Atrium in Pattee and Paterno Library will begin in the fall of 2017 with an approximate completion date of 2020. Significant student space will be gained by enclosing the courtyard, unifying the ground floor of Pattee with the Paterno Library complex, and adding an additional floor above the Central Atrium’s beautiful ceiling.
- Fundraising is beginning to renovate the space directly under the Knowledge Commons to create the Collaboration Commons. The Collaboration Commons will greatly expand individual and collaborative technology spaces and seating similar to the Knowledge Commons. Completing these future construction projects with an eye on increasing capacity for students remains the Library’s highest priority.
- The Schreyer Business Library will open the Business Commons in advance of the Fall 2017 semester. This action will create space for students to co-learn and collaborate in former staff space, enhancing student work space for a significant enrollment undergraduate major at University Park.
- Five campuses included library renovations in their submissions to the master plan. All five projects are anticipated to create additional student space by relocating collections.
- LIST acknowledges that undergraduate workspace is a very important Strategic Plan priority for the Library, but given the current Pattee/Paterno configuration and materials storage needs, student capacity remains an issue. LIST notes that several near-future projects identified in Recommendation 1 will offer additional student space. Anecdotally, it is reported to LIST that student seating space in the Pattee/Paterno library approaches or exceeds capacity by late afternoon/evening on most days. LIST also notes there is no recently compiled turn-style data on library usage from a time of day, days of the week, times during a semester, nor is recent data on faculty/undergraduate/graduate usage breakdown available. As such, LIST encourages the Library and LIST committee to work together to compile and review turn-style data, identifying time utilization, and potentially develop a survey to further elucidate which students utilize space (graduate, undergraduate, by major), for what purpose, and whether that use requires direct use of library materials or technology. Such data could potentially become an important future report by LIST and would be useful for future Library planning.
- If it is determined that excessive demand exists for student study space in the Pattee/Paterno library, unrelated to requiring access to the library’s collections, materials, and digital portals, appropriate solutions should be reviewed that might provide additional quiet student study space in the student union building and/or other University Park facilities.
- LIST notes that suspension or cancellation decisions for library materials are not always made with consultation or advice from all the faculty or academic units directly affected. In some instances, faculty or academic units might be unaware of such decisions. LIST recommends adoption of a formal system for consultation of units potentially affected by suspension or cancellation of library materials, along with notification of these same units when materials are cancelled.
- LIST observes that the current four, off-campus library storage facilities maximize materials storage, offer materials by request, but are not designed for routine faculty/student access. One of these leased facilities was inadequate and is being replaced by another facility in the Cato Park area Spring 2017, which is a major improvement for storage. Considering the longer-term future, LIST recommends consolidation of the four, off-site facilities into a single, close-to-campus, purpose-built facility that could incorporate all contemporary best practices for the preservation and conservation of library holdings. LIST acknowledges such a facility would be financially expensive and likely beyond current budgeting, but makes this recommendation from the perspective of an ideal future.
- Related to item , LIST recognizes that faculty and students are not generally aware of the Library Service that allows users to request materials from off-site storage. LIST encourages the library to promote this important retrieval service for physical access to stored materials.
SENATE COMMITTEE ON LIBRARIES, INFORMATION SYSTEMS, AND TECHNOLOGY
- William E. Butler, Chair
- Anna L. Mazzucato, Vice Chair
- Fred J. Aebli
- Robert Bridges
- Mary Beth Clark
- Marina Cotarelo
- Anne C. Clements
- Joseph L. Enama
- Ken Forstmeier
- Fynn Mott
- Terry O’Heron
- Ira J. Ropson
- Lydia Scheel
- Bradley Sottile
- Jennifer Sparrow
- Eric A. Walker