AN INVESTIGATION OF FURNITURE USE BY COLLEGE STUDENTS IN A UNIVERSITY LIBRARY QUIET ZONE


Presented by: Shannin Williams, Sally Ann Swearingen, Dr. Mitzi Perritt, Dr. Ray Darville, and Dr. Lynda Martin 

University libraries should accommodate the study habits of contemporary users if maximum space usage is justified. Understanding user preferences is key to informing university furniture acquisitions. This quantitative study examined furniture usage by individuals in a university library quiet zone. Library administration requested guidance in future furniture purchases for the quiet zone and desired to measure the popularity of new lounge chairs with tablet arms. The study area contained 4 square tables, 10 rectangular tables, 2 round tables, 12 study carrels, 4 computer workstations for library computers, 20 lounge chairs with tablets attaches on the arms and 72 chairs to accommodate the tables and study carrels. Existing furniture used in the study included all tables and study carrels and 36 chairs with arms. New furniture included 36 chairs with arms and 20 lounge chairs with table-arms. The researcher conducted observations through an unobtrusive, non-participant method to collect data on individuals using the furniture.  A pilot test revealed the need to label the availability of electrical access below each study carrel. Researchers surveyed the quiet zone once a week for five weeks during the early afternoon peak usage time based on past library entry gate counts. Researchers recorded furniture placement, furniture occupancy, user possessions, and user activities/behaviors.  The data collection form consisted of a coded furniture floor plan on which occupied furniture was highlighted. Chairs were outfitted with hidden labeling to allow the tracking of furniture moved by users. Researchers recorded measures and field notes on the individuals’ location within the quiet zone, personal possessions, and user activities. Variables collected included whether or not individuals had books or other printed material, laptop computers, or food and drinks with them as well as the activities they performed such as reading, writing, using cell phones, talking, or sleeping.

Data collection yielded a total of 41 users, 15 males and 26 females, who participated in the five observation periods. With 92 chairs involved in the floor plan and five observation periods, researchers documented 460 total possible observations. Most individuals (18%) occupied study carrels out of 60 total possible observations. Of this 18%, females (15% ) occupied study carrels more than males (3%). Lounge seating yielded a total occupancy rate of (14%) out of 100 total possible observations. Females (8%) occupied lounge chairs more than males (6%). Tables and chairs had a total occupancy rate of (5%) out of 300 total possible observations. Females (3%) occupied tables and chairs more than males (2%). According to the total possible observations more individuals preferred study carrels with chairs to lounge chairs and tables with chairs. Secondly, lounge seating was used more than tables with chairs. As for possessions, most users brought books to the quiet zone and engaged frequently in both reading and writing. Females used the library quiet zone area more than males. 

This data informs future furniture purchases should include different types of furniture—lounge furniture, collaborative furniture, comfortable seating, and furniture for private study—are recommended in study areas to accommodate the various needs of all individuals and to maintain the library as a vital place to study.

References:

  • Bennett, S., Demas, S., Freeman, G., Frischer, B., Oliver, K., & Peterson, C. (2005). Library as place: Rethinking roles, rethinking space. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources.
  • Condon, J. (1966). Study habits and perceptions of desirable study space by California community college students (Doctoral dissertation). Ann Arbor: MI. University Microfilms, Inc.
  • Given, L., & Leckie, G. (2003). "Sweeping" the library: Mapping the social activity space of the public library. Library & Information Science Research, 365-368.
  • Xia, J. (2005). Visualizing occupancy of library study space with GIS maps. New Library World, 106, 219-233.

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