It’s invisible but imperative to providing a good user experience. Design is intuitive when users can focus on a task at hand without stopping even for a second. Intuitive designs direct people’s attention to important tasks. Years of designing, furnishing and resourcing library spaces give us a deep understanding of how space can be configured to make it more intuitive. Colours, lighting, furnishings can invisibly direct students to what they need to find and where they want to be. Intuitive designs are not formal, they hand ownership of the space to the user. We often use the expression ‘together: alone’ to embody the feeling of combining individual study with group activities but without formal boundaries or restrictions. Intuitively designed spaces are relaxing and pleasant to be in, which in turn makes them motivating and engaging.
The library’s role in developing your students
Your library or resource centre will be working to support your strategy to deliver high-quality courses and training for a broad universe of students. The librarians’ remit frequently is to help students bridge the gap between learning and earning environment so that there is not such a leap when students leave education and enter employment. Also, the very nature of courses has changed considerably with more collaborative and group presentational style of study rather than heads-down individual study. As a result, there is a focus on creating transitional learning in working-style environments.
Dedicated study spaces or presentation areas are becoming increasingly popular for their semi-private group or individual working and even board room style layouts with presentation screens give students the experience of presenting their ideas in a commercial style environment. In the past the gap between a college library space and an office space was huge but the gap has narrowed and some university resource centres are not far removed in look and style from modern office environments.
When designing and furnishing new spaces we ask ourselves the question “do students want to be there” or “do they have to be there”? Increasing engagement with the space will maximise utilisation.
Happy to Hygge
Public libraries have long set the mood for safe, relaxing, welcoming inclusive spaces. While many are now technologically driven there is still an opportunity to take a tip from our Scandinavian friends and add a touch of ‘hygge’ to the interior. Scientists at University College London found that looking at beautiful things makes us happier by stimulating dopamine so colours, materials, lighting and introducing wellbeing themes create calm and relaxing spaces.
We’re not suggesting lighting candles and offering students slippers at the door (although that does sound quite appealing!) but we are always mindful of designing library interiors that place a visitor’s wellbeing at the heart of the design – and makes them want to stay.
According to Signe Johansen’s ‘How to Hygge, The Secrets of Nordic Living’: simplicity of design, soothing colours and natural materials are the guiding principles of hygge design. Touches of bright, clear color and use of natural wood textures creates inviting and it is a principle we included when designing the Everna furniture system in a range of cohesive core colours and a warm oak finish.
De-cluttering also creates a sense of calm – in a library space that can mean plentiful and clerverly designed storage, pruning of stock, digitations of archives and flexible furnishings to encourage open, light and airy spaces.
And it’s not all about interiors, it’s also about doing things. Creative activities are therapy for the mind. According to research, the five things that can help boost our mental wellbeing: Connect: Be Active; Keep Learning: Give to others, Be mindful. We are now seeing libraries take this on board with the rise in popularity of Makerspaces and similar spaces offering all manner of creativity.
Engaging Library Spaces
For academic libraries, we must design interiors that balance academic, physical and mental wellbeing and support students to live, learn and earn. Young people are more aware than ever of their health and wellbeing and if we listen to what they have to say we can bring a holistic approach to the design and furnishing of an interior.
Public health matters and is top of the agenda when it comes to designing library spaces.
Learning Space Layout
The layout of your learning space is crucial when it comes to engagement and productivity. For some students who are studying or working, they’ll need a quiet space they can sit in to focus; whereas for group projects, a collaborative area is needed so they can bounce ideas off each other.
Ideally, your learning space will accommodate both of these. Having Solo Study desks or Study Nooks is great for students who focus best in quieter environments, where they can concentrate and escape the noise. However, having Group Study areas with soft seating and tables can encourage groups to get together and discuss ideas, but these need to be kept separate from each other.
When it comes to managing noise levels, another aspect to consider is acoustics. Carpeted floors can help to reduce noise traveling, as can installing acoustic sound dampening panels (Hive-it). For students trying to concentrate on their work, this can go a great way towards helping increase their productivity and maintain engagement.
Use of Colours
You may think that minimalistic creams, greys and beiges are the way forward when creating a tranquil environment to study and come up with creative ideas, but you’d be wrong. Workspaces that have those particular colour palettes reportedly leave people using them sad and depressed.
The top three colours to help increase productivity are green, blue and yellow. Why? Well, because green and blue are associated with nature, they promote wellbeing and improve focus and efficiency. Yellow, on the other hand, can inspire innovation and creativity, with the connotations of this colour being energy, optimism, and freshness. These colours compromise our core range for the Everna™ system.
If you want to use red in your learning space, then you should consider this carefully. Whilst some students can find it inspiring, for others it can cause an increase in heart rate and feelings of panic. So, if you do decide to use red, then you should use it sparingly to draw attention to details in your workspace that are particularly important (e.g. signs).
Read more about our use of colour in our blog…
Psychologists state that a learning space with no pictures or other distractions is “the most toxic space” that a human can be in.
Exeter University recently conducted some research, which noted that people were 15% more productive on average when plants were introduced into a work or learning space. It was found that just one plant per square meter substantially increased engagement, productivity and feelings of wellbeing.
There have been countless amounts of research done on the benefits of plants in the workplace, which can easily be applied to learning spaces too. The University of Technology in Sydney found that the introduction of plants into a room could result in a 58% drop in anger, 44% drop in hostility, 38% drop in fatigue, and a 37% drop in tension. Powerful stuff.
Just remember to water them!
Daylight and Fresh Air
Poor quality air can lower performance by 10%, a 2006 analysis found. Not only can airless rooms make people who sit in them sick; it drastically reduces productivity too… which isn’t great if students are spending time revising for their exams in there.
If your learning space is in the centre of a large city like London, then, unfortunately, simply opening a window isn’t the answer – the air pollution and traffic noise won’t help with productivity at all!
However, there’s a way to achieve fresh air without opening a window… plants. Photosynthesis purifies air in learning spaces, as carbon dioxide is transformed into oxygen.
The other important thing needed to increase productivity is daylight. Many offices don’t have windows, and it’s a similar situation for learning spaces too. People who work in a space with windows are exposed to 173% more daylight than those who don’t. That results in an extra 46 minutes of sleep on average every single night – helping with concentration, motivation and productivity.
Encourage Breaks and Downtime
Students who enter your workspace at 9 am, leave at 9 pm, and sit at their desk the whole time aren’t going to be fully engaged with their study or working productively.
Putting up signs about the benefits of breaks, to help encourage them to leave their desks every once in a while.
Encourage taking a break by incorporating inviting informal spaces, comfortable seating away from study areas. The Claria™ range of soft modular seating is perfect for creating spaces for students to ‘chillax’ and recharge their batteries.
To conclude, there are many ways you can help your learning space to improve student engagement. These tips can help create spaces where your students want to be and where the can enjoy higher levels of concentration, motivation, and of course… productivity.