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Library spaces in the 21st century: Meeting the challenges of user needs for information, technology, and expertise

Robert A Seal (University Libraries, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 9 November 2015




Libraries and library professionals face multiple challenges in meeting user needs in the second decade of the new millennium. This is particularly true in academic libraries where students and faculty demand and expect fast, easy, and seamless access to information as well as flexible, comfortable places to work alone as well as collaboratively with colleagues, friends, classmates, and instructors. These same patrons often require the assistance of information specialists to navigate a library’s increasingly large array of online resources. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This paper provides historical context and reviews recent trends in the area in the area of learning and study spaces in academic libraries. It also cites the successful information commons at the author’s home institution, Loyola University Chicago, examining its first six years of operation and projecting changes in its next half decade.


The past 15 plus years have seen a major shift in philosophy in the USA and in other parts of the globe in terms of the importance of “library as space” in enhancing the role of the college and university library. As a result, academic institutions, at the urging of librarians, have created spaces known as information commons, learning commons, research commons, etc. in response to user needs for access to technology, group work, social interaction, and knowledge creation.


The information commons in all its forms has not been static, indeed it has matured, adapting over time to changing technologies, patron needs, and pedagogies.



© Robert Seal


Seal, R.A. (2015), "Library spaces in the 21st century: Meeting the challenges of user needs for information, technology, and expertise", Library Management, Vol. 36 No. 8/9, pp. 558-569.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Authors

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