#ReThinkIt15 – Escaping Gravity: One Library’s Journey from Idea to Understanding


Lee Van Orsdel, Dean of University Libraries Grand Valley State University
Dr. Lennie Scott-Webber, PhD, IIDA, NCIDQ, AIA Affiliate Principal Insync: Education Research + Design

GVSU’s new library was designed to evoke new behaviors, perceptions and experiences among students using the space. The presenters will describe the ideas that drove the design of the Mary Idema Pew Library and share the preliminary findings of a year-long research project that measured how students are actually perceiving and using the space.


  • What if we thought about our educational experiences in terms of:
    • “Shopping Mall” – everything in one place, consumer chooses, contagious energy, serendipity.
    • Great european train stations – many destinations, affinity with fellow travelers, contagious energy, serendipty.
  • There is a buzz… if we get there there to stay we can then teach them something.
  • 4 Goals:
    • Align library with students’ preferred environments
    • Make learning visible
    • Give them tools to manage their own learning
    • Inspire energize + engage them.
  • Energy is simply amazing.
  • Questions: skills required in assignments, what empowers them, what makes them efficient?
  • Students helping students, few signs, implied permissions.
  • Different postures, food and comfort, power, places to put student stuff.
  • 31 types of furniture in the library.
  • Contemplative spaces, comfortable seating for long sessions, noise system to reduce sound.
  • Fireplace in reading room
  • Collaborative spaces, portable tables, whiteboards, noise system to encourage sound, bright colors and lots of light.
  • Whiteboard ‘rooms’ are very popular
  • Technology includes both mac and pcs
  • 4 outdoor spaces
  • User experience team is in charge of continual, intentional, heat maps for where you can find space in the library
  • The building perfectly showcases learning through visibility.
  • Cafe support social and longer study periods.
  • Knowledge Market includes help desk, speech lab, writing center, research peer consultants, tutoring.


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