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Participatory action research in learning commons design planning

Margaret Brown‐Sica (Auraria Library, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA)
Karen Sobel (Auraria Library, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA)
Erika Rogers (ChezVous Technology and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 20 July 2010



The purpose of this paper is to document the process the Auraria Library went through to plan research methods to produce information for their learning commons project.


The paper provides an overview and the results of one library's planning methods using user‐centered and participatory action research (PAR) principles. It includes a literature review and data gathered from several information gathering sessions. It also discusses useful resources and ideologies found outside the field of library science, such as “placemaking” and the concept of “third place.”


Adopting values that honor user‐centered, evidence‐based decision making is a change that must include the whole library, as well as its users. When enough time is spent to include a broad spectrum of feedback you can get a lot of valuable evidence, even during a planning period.


The paper could be useful to libraries who are examining their services, environment, and technology. It is of interest to libraries that want to use user‐centered design and PAR in their work.



Brown‐Sica, M., Sobel, K. and Rogers, E. (2010), "Participatory action research in learning commons design planning", New Library World, Vol. 111 No. 7/8, pp. 302-319.



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