Liberty University’s rapid rate of growth has forecast about a 30% increase in the student residential population by 2016. In order to accommodate expanding enrollment, the first phase of a sweeping master planning effort was completed in spring 2011, establishing 2 million square feet of new building over the next 10 years.
A New Academic Centerpiece:
As the primary focus of the first phase of the master plan, Liberty’s Library is a vibrant hub of student activity situated at the spatial and social heart of campus. Pulling from three surrounding student housing precincts, the library is a communal living room for students – a central gathering point where learning, living, studying, and playing can meet and recombine in unique combinations. This combination of programmatic elasticity and flexible learning space has never existed before on Liberty’s campus, and students are embracing this fresh approach to 21st-century learning with enthusiasm.
Compared to prototypical libraries of the past, Liberty’s new flagship library reverses the notion of book storage as the central motive of a library’s design in favor of a user-centric layout that places student activity in the foreground. The building provides a wide range of flexible spaces that encourage students to meet, work, and socialize in increasingly informal groupings. The building is also strategically organized to provide a full range of opportunities for study, from completely quiet individual study zones, to small and medium sized group study rooms and lounges, to the large Learning Commons and public gathering areas.
Customer Service Model:
Customer service was a central part of the Library's planning process, and became a major component of the physical design of the building. In fact, the client insisted that barriers between users and library staff be dismantled and that patrons be able to readily locate the expertise they required with ease. This active model of assistance, inspired by the concierge-style service found in the hospitality industry, celebrates learning and transforms research and discovery from a once-daunting chore into an interactive process that is accessible and fun with the proper support.
While the presence of media and technology in the library is obvious, it doesn’t come at the expense of printed material. A state-of-the-art Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), found in a handful of libraries in the nation currently, allows Liberty to house their growing collection, using just 1/7th of the space needed for traditional shelving. In order to facilitate browsing, the library displays approximately 67,000 of the newest and most frequently used materials in a four-story book tower and two-story reading room. The combination of the ASRS system and book tower translates into more open space for 21st learning environments dedicated to collaboration and research.
Balancing Tradition & Innovation:
A large design consideration of the new library involved balancing advanced technological features and novel interactive learning spaces with the traditional aspects and culture of an academic library setting. The openness of the library functions to illuminate the buzzing, technology-rich academic activity taking place within while also connecting students to the campus and heritage beyond its walls. Traditional spaces such as the Caudell Reading Room, designated for quiet study and reading, and the barrel vaulted Archive Reading Room foster formal moments of reflection. The inspirational library spaces connect students and staff with their learning aims and the campus setting of which they are integrally a part.