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Information Scotland

The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

ISSN 1743-5471

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December 2007 Volume 5(6)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

Buildings and design

A learning curve

The design of the new Learning Resource Centre at Edinburgh’s Telford College is flexible enough for it to accommodate changing student needs. Mark Glancy describes its success one year on.

Edinburgh’s Telford College is one of the largest FE colleges in Scotland. During the summer of 2006, the college moved into a GBP 70million purpose-built single campus at the Waterfront in Granton. The college’s learning strategy outlined plans to “provide a first class learning environment with state of the art facilities” and the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) was seen as a key element in this, expanding to meet the needs of increased online and resource-based learning delivery.

When designing the LRC, in conjunction with the architects (HOK) and specialist library designers (Library Services Scotland), we were keen to incorporate key concepts that had worked in the college’s previous study centres:

  • Zones: there had to be clear separation of the individual and group study areas in an open-plan, one-floor space.
  • Flexibility: rooms in the LRC had to be adaptable, suitable for a variety of uses.
  • Increased access to IT: available in every area.
  • Social spaces:
  • for relaxation and social interaction.
    With an open-plan design, it is important to try and get users to their destination before reaching the central study areas, to avoid disturbing other students. Consequently all IT and project rooms, social spaces and recreational collections were located close to the entrances and service desks. Zones were distinguished using different furniture and upholstery colours, separated by shelving to reduce the ambient noise. Desks from the original Scottish Parliament were imaginatively integrated.

    The LRC opened with 95 group study spaces, 45 individual study desks and recreational seating for 25 users. Five IT rooms housed the majority of the 100 computers, interactive white board and an audiovisual console with video and DVD playback facilities. Traditional corridors were replaced by two Learning Streets – open-plan spaces providing access to 60 computers (in clusters of six) adjacent to the IT labs; and more than 100 study spaces (for groups of six) adjacent to the classrooms.

    The new LRC and Learning Streets proved to be very popular with students – usage for session 2006/7 increased by an average of 36% compared to the previous academic year, and loans went up by 21%. We surveyed our users in January. Feedback was very favourable about the environment, study facilities, staff and stock. However, there were two issues that required further action: 51% of the respondents thought a quiet study area was very important to them, while 32% said they had some difficulty getting a computer. We revisited the zoning of the LRC, particularly as the polished concrete walls and ceiling amplified the ambient noise created by groups. As an interim step, one of our project rooms was turned into a silent area for individual study.

    For the current session, the LRC was changed into one large, quiet study zone. Groups of four or more are now situated in the project rooms and lounge seating was split into smaller sections and distributed around the LRC. Although this move has reduced the overall number of group study spaces, groups based in these rooms now have direct access to IT, so it has proved popular. In College focus groups with second year students, only 4% of the LRC comments now concerned noise. Usage has dropped slightly over lunchtime, but has increased at all other times of the day as the quieter environment is encouraging the students to study for longer.

    To address heavy demand of the 160 open-access computers, additional PCs are being introduced into the Learning Streets, and WiFi will be available in the LRC from January. An online booking system (MyPC) is being installed to encourage students and tutors to book in advance.

    The service has been responsive to student and staff demand during its first year as the college adjusted to the new accommodation. A Staff Learning Centre is being established to assist with staff development activities. Student inductions are now hands-on practical sessions, covering not only library services but IT network, VLE and print accounts. An electronic library (IDEA) will provide one point of access for information on LRC and IT services with subject zones containing links to websites, e-resources and digital galleries of student work.

    One year on, the success of the LRC can be attributed to a clear vision of how it should operate, a design that was flexible enough to adapt to the changes that inevitably occurred during a “bedding in” period; and the continued commitment of the staff to make it work.

    Mark Glancy is Assistant Manager, Learning Resources, Edinburgh’s Telford College e:; t: 0131 559 4147.

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    Information Scotland Vol. 5(6) December 2007

    © Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

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    Last updated: 26-Feb-2008