Learning Life Cycle | New Landmark Libraries 2016

The 2016 New Landmark Libraries highlight academic libraries that are setting the standard for both new construction and renovations. These five winners and three honorable mentions inspire by illustrating the creativity, innovation, and imagination that can spring from even the most modest budget. The trends, ideas, and methods provide inspiration for other projects and efforts, large or small.


The 2016 New Landmark Libraries (NLL) highlight academic libraries that are setting the standard for both new construction and renovations. These five winners and three honorable mentions inspire by illustrating the creativity, innovation, and imagination that can spring from even the most modest budget. The trends, ideas, and methods provide inspiration for other projects and efforts, large or small. Public and school librarians as well as academics will gain from these efforts—several honorees feature public-private partnerships or provide regional services.

ljx160902webnllslug Overview: Learning Life Cycle




Submissions were solicited from North American academic library projects completed between 2012 and 2015. (The first round of New Landmark Libraries featuring academic libraries focused on projects completed between 2007 and 2011.) The criteria remain the same (see below for details) and include new construction, expansions, and major renovations. The six NLL judges spanned the library, design, and architecture fields.

Renovations shine in this year’s series—including three winners and one honorable mention. While there are notable constraints and creativity expressed in the renovations, trends in programming, design, and community context are shared across new projects and remodels alike. The 2016 landmarks are leaders, shaping the future of the educational experience on their campuses and in their communities.

Trends snapshot

The trends identified in 2012 continue to resonate. These projects make extensive use of glass (walls, windows, wells, and skylights) to “light the box” by bringing daylight into interior spaces, enabling views from the inside out and also the outside in, such as the Jerry Falwell Library at Liberty University, with its four-story book tower. Each is designed to be a landmark not only in the daytime but also at night, when many students seek out the library as a third place.

Technology isn’t confined to showcases or service partnerships anymore but is even more fully integrated than it was in 2012. It’s often physically woven into the fabric of the buildings through raised flooring. Libraries such as the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons and the James B. Hunt Jr. Library have departments dedicated to creating responsive software solutions for their unique needs. Finally, these libraries continue to “connect the campus” with innovative service models, peer-to-peer interaction, and programming. In addition, we’ve identified seven new trends from this year’s crop.

1) Data-driven design

Many of the libraries are conducting their own research, either independently or with experts, about student learning and library use at every stage in their building process, including when they are up and running. The Pew Library created a user experience department aimed specifically at monitoring student and community use of spaces across the library, programs, the semester, and services. In preparation for the new Marywood University Learning Commons, the late library director Cathy Schappert partnered with staff and faculty to study learning spaces and usage patterns in academic libraries nationwide before diving into design and development.

2) Smart collection management

Rather than simply moving collections off-site, many of our current NLLs make use of advances in automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) to decrease radically their materials footprint. They also employ conscious selection and deselection of holdings and assess where portions of their collections should be to ensure the most productive access. Often these systems are paired with a new service model that can provide one-stop access to reference, materials, and circulation services. The ASK US service at the Hunt Library can retrieve items from the bookBot in five minutes or less, providing students, faculty, and staff with on-demand ­availability.

3) People-centered services

Deep partnerships developed across our landmarks yield innovative service models. The Knowledge Market at the Pew Library puts student peers front and center in a consultation service that combines expertise from the school of communications, the writing center, and the new campuswide data literacy effort. Eschewing a centralized service point, the James Branch Cabell Library designed “pods” to facilitate consultation, engagement, and collaboration between cross-trained staff and the student body and to adapt, with the service model itself, as needs change.

4) Pedagogical prowess

The LJ landmarks don’t just follow the active learning trend, they’re at the forefront of furthering it. Staff from the Odegaard Undergraduate Library at University of Washington partnered with researchers to develop a new active classroom that supports both formal and informal learning, a model that has catalyzed the design of classrooms across campus. The Pew Library’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified building has become a “learning object” for the campus, from mandatory tours of the ASRS and technology showcase for engineering and computing courses to multimodal class assignments requiring students to create a video based on their experience with a feature of the building.

5) Life cycle thinking

Regardless of their status as a new or renovated structure, every NLL takes into consideration the aspect of content creation in today’s learning process. From information gathering to data analysis and creative expression, these new landmarks have developed a variety of spaces, services, and resources for students to engage in along the life cycle of research and learning. These library spaces don’t merely support collaboration or quiet study, they offer everything in between, covering every stage of a student or faculty member’s academic work. Developing spaces that mirror the 21st-century work environment, such as those at the Pew Library, is also a trend likely to emerge in other library capital projects.

6) Visualize it

Academic libraries today recognize that both research and creative expression are digital and data-driven. From the two-story interactive media wall at the Falwell Library to the visualization wall at the Charles E. Shain facility and the immersive visualization studios at the Hunt Library, these technological solutions are not just pretty to look at, they present students with powerful computing tools to engage in research and other academic pursuits.

7) Enhance the campus

Some of our outstanding NLLs participate in sustainability efforts from a nuanced perspective, incorporating elements of regenerative design and human well-being into the libraries. The Cabell Library renovation added a water retention cistern to the site, reducing the load on the municipal sewer system. By reimagining the library’s main entrance, ­Cabell also encourages the use of stairs while delighting the senses through programmable LED strips designed to change color with varying activities and events. Marywood’s Learning Commons enhances the school’s investment in green space with vegetated roofs but is also thoughtfully placed at the center of the academy, as a gateway across two distinct portions of the campus, thereby connecting them.

ljx160902webnllslugsmallT H E   C R I T E R I A When planning your next building project, consider these criteria as a checklist for programming and design and tools to share with your campus or community leaders.

1. Overall design and construction excellence. Consider (a) appropriateness and quality of materials; (b) connections between interior and exterior spaces; (c) durability of building finishes and furnishings; (d) appropriateness of materials used given local circumstances; and (e) responses by stakeholders, community or beyond including recognition, additional funding, and/or symbolic significance.

2. Response to community context and constraints. Consider (a) how stakeholders and staff input shaped the design; (b) any campus or neighborhood improvements such as pedestrian access; (c) any incorporation of multi-functional uses; (d) any creative solutions to local constraints; and (e) an appropriate physical setting.

3. Sustainability. With regard to (a) site selection and development; (b) water efficiency; (c) energy use; (d) materials and resources used; (e) indoor environmental quality; and (f) ongoing education, outreach and operations.

4. Functionality. A new landmark library maximizes functionality in the delivery of library services. What design elements improve the service delivery, experience, and accessibility for students, faculty, community and staff?

5. Innovation. Landmark libraries respond to current and anticipated demographic, cultural and technological changes in innovative ways. Does the building test and prove the viability of new knowledge and assumptions?

6. Beauty and delight. Judges looked for evidence of positive initial impressions, a “wow” factor that delights visitors and any local, state, or national recognition and how does this relate to the design? Is the initial impression and “wow” factor long lasting and why.

ljx160902webnllslugsmallT H E   J U D G E S Six judges led by project coordinator Emily Puckett Rodgers helped to evaluate the submissions in the light of the criteria developed for the first round of academic New Landmark Libraries in 2012. The judges represent a mix of academic library backgrounds, architecture, and journalism and a variety of institution size and location. All judging was confidential and performed via Submittable software. LJ thanks them for generously sharing their time and expertise.

Dennis Humphries, Principal, Humphries Poli Architects, Denver

Traci Lesneski, Principal, MSR, Minneapolis

Nancy Magnuson, Librarian, Goucher College, Baltimore

Emily Thompson, Studio Librarian, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

Catherine Wallack, Architectural Records Archivist, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Lisa Peet, Associate Editor, News, Library Journal

Emily Puckett Rodgers, a 2013 LJ Mover & Shaker, is the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, School of Information’s Entrepreneurship Program Manager. She received her MSI from the School of Information in 2010, after working for eight years at the Fayetteville Public Library, AR

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