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Stanford's Art & Architecture Library

Description of Space The Art & Architecture (A&A) Library is on the main floor of the Cummins Art Building situated between the Bing Wing of Green Library and the Art Gallery on Lasuen Mall directly across from the Main Quad (map). The walls of the building are drab concrete covered with less than exciting art work. The ceiling of the library is high and lit with florescent lights. There are three levels. The ground (main) floor; which contains bookshelves, computers, the circulation desk, a flat scree TV, tables, and chairs. The second floor and basement are almost entirely book stacks. The book stacks throughout the library are about five feet high and three feet deep with books on both sides. On the ground floor, they are arranged as to divide up the space into smaller spaces. High windows on three sides of the ground floor provided plenty of sunlight that was pleasantly shaded by outdoor and indoor foliage. The space was quiet despite roughly ten constant users.

Use of Space I observed the library between 12pm and 1pm on a weekday. During that time, most students who used the space were studying independently at the tables and chairs near the huge windows that look out onto Lasuen Mall and the main quad. Most worked on laptops and or read, but they did not seem to be using library books. Two students scanned pictures from books onto a computer and (presumably) emailed the files to themselves. During my observation, a librarian gave four students an orientation to the library stopping right in front of me to tell them that there are more books downstairs because there's not enough room on the ground level. I did not observe anyone going to the basement or second floor.

Potential Use of Space The A&A library differed very little than others that I've visited; the hushed climate, tables, uncomfortable chairs, and book stacks were all iconic library fixtures. Its blandness came as a surprise to me because I anticipated an inspired (and inspiring) space that art buildings tend to be. Why did the A&A library not reflect the creativity and inquiry that that the department sought to inspire in its students? Further, why did the library rely so heavily on books when the arts are expressed through multiple media?

The pictures aren't great quality, but you can see a high ceiling and plenty of unused wall space. One simple solution to the space issue that the librarian alluded to would be to build taller bookshelves along the walls with ladders or a catwalk to access the lesser used books. The freed space could be used for semi-private group and individual viewing areas where students could view and compare works of art accessed from a database on high definition computer screens. Similar areas could be used to watch films, edit video, and record sound. While quiet contemplation is often associated with viewing art, engaging in dialogs around works of art are extremely important to productive inquiry. The library should provide space for such interactions. The melding of work space with traditional common spaces would lower the geographic boundaries for more efficient transfer of knowledge between the two activities.

I feel like art libraries, perhaps more than others, need to be rich, vibrant, stimulating environments where teachers and learners can contemplate, collaborate, compare, experiment, and view with ease. Books somehow seem antiquated in an art library. I hate to go directly to technology, but existing tools like search engines, databases of artists' work, and the appropriate displays to view and compare them seem like simple and beneficial alterations.

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Page last modified on May 10, 2007, at 12:01 AM