Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Mandl, HE & Jantti, MH, 'Far from common: innovative approaches to designing information rich learning and research spaces', LIANZA Conference 2008: Poropitia Outside the Box, LIANZA, Wellington, New Zealand, 2008, 1-6.


The University of Wollongong Library commenced the new academic year with a state of the art complex designed to attract and welcome students, staff and visitors to a new range of lightfilled study and social places. The Library in its current form, is a significant departure from the original three-storey building which was colloquially known as The Bunker. Built in the 1970’s it was typical of the brutalist architectural style. The reconstruction of the Library extension during 2007 enabled the deconstruction of traditional approaches to facilities design. Cognisant of the proliferation of group work within the curriculum and demand for fully integrated, ubiquitous ICT, we defied current trends promulgating the creation of vast information commons. Rather than diluting the notion of the Library as the heart of the University we sought opportunities to create stimulating and flexible, information rich learning and research spaces, while working within the constraints of existing infrastructure. This was critical to sustaining the integrity of the purpose of the Library and its role in students’ and staffs’ academic pursuits, as a place of resource discovery, learning and reflection. The extensive use of glass compels onlookers to explore strategically positioned facilities, information resources and art; clients can immediately see what is available to them and how resources might be used. Student computing facilities have increased but have been spread throughout the building in groups, in multi-purpose teaching labs, in concentrated areas and via extensive desks with power access. Other spaces were designed to offer flexible approaches to individual and small group study, incorporating non-linear layouts, purpose built furnishings and improved space for the use of physical information resources. Managing clients’ needs and expectations throughout the building phase posed numerous challenges. Long established service models such as Roving Help (assistance with wireless networking, printing, basic information services and directional support), email a librarian and chat proved advantageous in providing assistance at point of need and fitted naturally with our vision of creating dispersed study and learning spaces, complemented by access to expert help. Our goal to transform, expand and revitalise the Library building to create a vibrant campus hub has been realised. Clients enjoy a lighter, more transparent, welcoming building, equipped with custom-built furnishings, and stimulating learning environments, enhanced by displays of paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture and other art forms.