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The academic library as congenial space: more on the Saint Mary's experience

Ron Houlihan (Patrick Power Library, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 January 2005



To provide theoretical and practical perspectives on the “library as space” debate as well as an update of an earlier (2002) New Library World article on one university library's attempt to re‐position itself through physical change.


The first part examines the need to fashion academic libraries as desirable destinations for students in the face of the 24/7 availability of both library and non‐library electronic sources of information. The second part provides an account of some of the latest initiatives undertaken by the library at Saint Mary's University, an urban, primarily undergraduate university of 8,000 students on Canada's east coast.


The critical importance of providing a comfortable and stimulating environment for students and the rewards for doing so are confirmed, with reference to various Canadian and US schools. Some of the almost‐universal characteristics of today's students are identified within the context of the changing nature of academic research and communication.

Practical implications

It offers advice and insights to libraries striving to strengthen their place within the academic life and social environment of the university. It also provides arguments for and encouragement to those attempting to implement innovative changes to either library space or library policies.


Brings together many of the ideas and experiences of disparate academic libraries facing similar challenges.



Houlihan, R. (2005), "The academic library as congenial space: more on the Saint Mary's experience", New Library World, Vol. 106 No. 1/2, pp. 7-15.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited