Headcounts on Steroids: A Lightweight Method for Evaluating Space and Furniture Use

Research output: Other contribution


The study identified patterns of space and furniture use to inform planning and vision for the busiest library on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Library staff manually gathered headcount and user behavior data in Walter Library during the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters. Data was gathered three times a day, three days per week, during three weeks throughout the semester. The data included counts of people by furniture type and was augmented with time and location data. These data were combined with total seat counts by furniture type, room, and floor and compared across time and space. The instrument was updated and refined to improve data collection. Library users’ furniture preferences changed drastically from room to room. We found that spaces with furniture and atmosphere designed for collaborative work
were very popular, as were spaces designed for quiet, individual study. Furniture supportive of individual study were underutilized in rooms and areas more conducive to group or parallel study and vice versa. We want flexible spaces and a nimble decision-making process but have limitations due to the constraints of our historic building. The study has encouraged creative, user-centered thinking. The methodology is lightweight enough to repeat the study each semester and at the same time produces actionable information that have informed major decisions and a vision for our library space as a whole. The datasets we generated
answered big picture questions about library use and informed individual decisions about the placement and use of pieces of furniture. Most importantly, the study has challenged many of our assumptions about how people use the library’s spaces.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
TypeConference paper for Library Assessment Conference 2019
StatePublished - Oct 2019

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