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Article focuses on college libraries which provide places where communities gather and interact

The David Bishop Skillman Library was featured in the Associated Press article, “College Libraries Not Just Books,” which appeared yesterday in print or on the web site of dozens of national media outlets including, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and San Francisco Chronicle.

The article focuses on various colleges across the nation which are renovating or building new libraries with an eye on combining academic and social spaces to form a closer sense of community. Neil McElroy, director of libraries and information technology services, was quoted in the story.

An excerpt from the article follows:

Among college architects and administrators, there’s a lot of talk these days about an idea called “the third space.” Many colleges have plenty of buildings that were designed for either living or working. But they’re short on “third spaces” – spots where communities naturally gather and interact.

Fancy student centers have tried to fill the role, but they lack that intellectual vibe. Amid the endless distractions of the modern campus, students repeatedly say in surveys they want a quiet place where they can get serious work done. But they never want to be more than a short walk away from a latte.

A number of colleges are looking to libraries to fill the role. Big research universities, such as Duke, are among those remodeling libraries, but some of the more interesting designs are coming at smaller schools like Rhodes. In Pennsylvania, Lafayette College’s award-winning new library has produced a nearly threefold increase in usage �

“The real change is a kind of a Copernican change, from putting books at the center of the library and then fitting people in somewhere, making them the secondary residents,” said Neil McElroy, Lafayette’s head of libraries. “We’ve put people at the center.”

Some schools have found technology can complement books. Lafayette’s new library is circulating 20,000 more items per year to students than its old one did. The statistic suggests electronic resources help students navigate book collections and find titles that would otherwise go unused.

From 2003-05, Skillman underwent a $22 million expansion and renovation project, which added 28,555 square feet and transformed almost every aspect of the interior and exterior. For the design and the final product, the library received the American Institute of Architects’ AIA/ALA Library Building Award in 2007 and Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture in 2006, and the Boston Society of Architects’ Honor Award for Design Excellence and Higher Education Facilities Design Award.

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