Putting Learning into Library Planning

In his essay Putting Learning into Library Planning, Scott Bennett notes “the emergence of learning as a key factor in academic library planning…arguing for an improved, learning-oriented planning process.” Bennett, Yale University Librarian Emeritus, is a nationally-recognized pioneer in library space design, focusing on strengthening the alignment of the library with the fundamental education mission of the institution it serves. His essay is a “must-read” for all intent on ensuring that the renewal and reinvention of physical learning environments is part of investing in the institutional future.   


abstract: This essay notes the emergence of learning as a key factor in academic library planning. It argues for an improved, learning-oriented planning process by noting the dangers that arise from the priority usually given to fixing dysfunctional space and from the traps of mistaking the things of learning for learning itself and of thinking with the metaphors of learning rather than about what our metaphors actually mean. We can spring the trap by grounding planning in a sound concept of learning and by giving thoughtful attention to questions of ownership and presence in learning spaces. Five habits of highly effective planning are offered.

The Five (Not Seven!) Habits of Highly Effective Planning 

  • Start Early and Set Priorities

    Start early, set priorities and stick to them. Do not wait until you have funding, or even the prospect of funding to begin planning. 

  • Think about Metaphors

    Exactly what do you mean by the term learning?
    How does your definition of the thing you are planning for align with the literature of learning theory?
    How does it align with efforts to identify and assess the impact of good practices in teaching and learning? 

  • Divide the Problem

    Consider planning as requiring at least three domains of expertise: those involving the design of space; those involving furniture; and those involving pedagogy. 

  • Conquer the Problem Through Collaboration

    Strengthen your focus on learning by enlisting as planning partners other key groups deeply concerned with students’ academic success. 

  • Rethink Presence

    Presence involves issues not only of ownership but also of pedagogy. Putting Learning into Library Planning is to think about communities of practice and how students are drawn into those communities, how they cross the thresholds of knowing. 

Originally printed in portal: Libraries and the Academy, Vol. 15, No. 2 (2015), pp. 215–232.