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Libraries as coworking spaces: Understanding user motivations and perceived barriers to social learning

Mark Bilandzic (Urban Informatics Research Lab, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Marcus Foth (Urban Informatics Research Lab, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 7 June 2013

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to inform design strategies for smart space technology to enhance libraries as environments for coworking and informal social learning. The focus is on understanding user motivations, behaviour, and activities in the library when there is no programmed agenda.

Design/methodology/approach

The study analyses gathered data over five months of ethnographic research at The Edge – a “bookless” library space at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, that is explicitly dedicated to coworking, social learning, peer collaboration, and creativity around digital culture and technology.

Findings

The results present five personas that embody people's main usage patterns as well as motivations, attitudes, and perceived barriers to social learning. It appears that most users work individually or within pre‐organised groups, but usually do not make new connections with co‐present, unacquainted users. Based on the personas, four hybrid design dimensions are suggested to improve the library as a social interface for shared learning encounters across physical and digital spaces.

Originality/value

The findings in this paper offer actionable knowledge for managers, decision makers, and designers of technology‐enhanced library spaces and similar collaboration and coworking spaces.

Keywords

Citation

Bilandzic, M. and Foth, M. (2013), "Libraries as coworking spaces: Understanding user motivations and perceived barriers to social learning", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 254-273. https://doi.org/10.1108/07378831311329040

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited