My Library Space: Campus Consultation - Summary of Questions, Answers and Comments

Following the sessions, 53 individuals submitted written comments - either in paper or through our online form. (as PDF)


Question / Comment: Response:
Both the Health Sciences Library and the Mills Library are proposing Commons facilities. Can you define what a "Commons" actually is? There are as many definitions of a Commons as there are installations! Each Commons that we've visited has a slightly different philosophy, service model, look and feel. We define a Commons as an integrated learning facility providing one-stop access to information, equipment and expertise.
The Mills Commons looks great. When will it be done? We're hoping to have some spaces and services available for September /October 2005. Time lines will be posted to the library web site as they become finalized.
What will [the Mills Commons] cost us? Will there be a student levy to pay for it? The University is funding the Mills Knowledge Commons proposal to a maximum of $1.8 Million. No student levy will be imposed to build the facility.
I'd like to hear more about the trade-offs? What are we giving up to get these new facilities? These kinds of Commons facilities exist on other university campuses. Have we reviewed their best practices and learned anything from their examples? Have we learned what not to do? Yes, library staff from both the Health Sciences Library and the University Library have visited other Commons facilities and studied the literature regarding best practices. We've tried as much as possible to incorporate the best features of what we've seen into our own McMaster solutions. During the process we've seen some features that did not work (e.g., a sea of computers without any increase in human expertise). We've learned from other sites' mistakes as much as from their successes.
Has thought been given as to how these new renovations will fit within the larger campus environment? What about the campus labs for example? Debbie Barrett, McMaster's Chief Information Officer, responded that the new Technology Strategy supports the concept of a "virtual" or "distributed" commons concept. She sees the possibility of several Commons nodes - some maintained by the Library and some maintained by UTS or other groups. University Technology Services (formerly CIS) intends to review and upgrade all of its campus labs in the coming years.
Other than the number of computers available at Mills and library hours, I don't see a huge problem with our library system. It seems like we have a ton of money to burn and we don't know how to go about burning it so we're just hiring planners, architects, designers to tell us how to re-arrange our libraries. I would like to see the money [go] towards improved library hours and faster computers as opposed to newer chairs and new building structure.

We're glad to hear you are pleased with the current state of library facilities and services. Unfortunately, many of our users do not share your level of satisfaction. We are constantly being told that there are not enough seats for students to study at. [We estimate we need over 400 additional seats to meet current needs and another 200 spots by the year 2015.]

We assure you that new furnishings are a minor part of the Knowledge Commons project. Our primary objective is to create an enriched learning environment for students. Big deliverables include 1) a dramatic increase in the number of public stations in Mills (as many as 156 new machines) and 2) the possibility of supporting extended hour access if demand warrants and funding can be found.

Will there be a Commons built at Thode and Innis? The University Libraries' Public Space Report recommends that a Commons facility be built on the Lower and First floors of Thode Library. This report also recommends that Commons software, furnishings and service models be expanded to Innis.
The Thode and Innis plans look nice, but isn't this really far into the future? More a dream than a reality? The University Library's Space Report maps out a blueprint for the next decade. The changes being proposed for Innis (the creation of three new group study rooms, etc.) will likely be made within the next few years. Some components of the Thode proposals will be acted on right away - but the more dramatic changes (e.g., the relocation of the serials collection to the Lower Level) are still at the preliminary stage - and will require significant discussion and planning before being finalized.
I think the new diagram / pictures (of the Health Sciences Library) look really awesome! Please do this! Our library needs a new look.

We're glad that you like the plan. We agree that it's time for a new look!


Question / Comment: Response:
Some Universities have adopted a strong "learning" component as part of their commons facilities - and, in some cases, even adopted the name "Learning Commons" to define their approach. Some commons facilities in Quebec feature break-out rooms where faculty and students can meet to work on problems. Faculty would benefit from having learning spaces adjacent to the computer spaces. Do you have any plans for including "learning" in your Commons? Yes, both the Health Sciences and University Library are envisioned as learning spaces. The Health Sciences renovation plans include a new electronic classroom adjacent to their Learning Commons. Mills will support its Commons facility with the Wong Electronic Classroom and an enhanced Gateway Room lab (both located on the 1st floor). Mills is also exploring collaboration with the Centre for Student Development to provide Writing Clinic services out of the Commons. Both plans have group study rooms in close proximity to the Commons computer stations. Both plans include a commitment to support the specialized learning needs of students with disabilities.


Question/Comment: Response:

The plans seem to illustrate a shifting in favour of group learning. Please remember that there are still lots of independent learners.

The current generation of students entering university from highschool approach learning as a collaborative and social activity. The nature of many undergraduate assignments reinforces this demand for group environments. Both the Health Sciences Library and the University Library plans incorporate increases in the number of enclosed group study rooms. Open study areas support collaborative study through furniture design and configuration.

That being said, the Library recognizes the great and continuing need for quiet reflection and independent work spaces. The Health Sciences plan designates specific areas for quiet work. The University Library plan has attempted to create "human sized clusters" of seating appropriate for individual work. The strong and very valid demand for more quiet study will be a central point of discussion as we finalize our floor plans.

One concern I have after looking at the plans and pictures for Knowledge Commons is the reduction of group study tables in the large group study area on Floor 2. I already feel that there are not enough group study tables / rooms but taking out two thirds of the tables in this area is not going to help.

While adding many more computers [in Mills] is essential, taking away QUIET, individual study space is a horrible idea. It is ridiculous that students can't find a quiet place to study, personally, that is the main reason that I come to the Library. Taking away the quiet study rooms will disadvantage many students and there will be even more students forced to sit on the floor to study....Rather than making more group study space, you should consider more individual study space.

The Mills Commons proposal is not actually changing the balance between individual and group space. The area being renovated is the large group study room (Room 211), the open area around the Reference Desk on the 2nd floor AND the newspaper reading area (2 group tables) on the 3rd floor. Room 211 will remain a group environment. No individual study carrels will be dislocated as part of the renovation.

That said, we share your concern about the number of individual study spaces in Mills. The University Library's Public Space Report is recommending that 229 additional seats be added to Mills over the course of the decade, 95 of that number at individual carrels. We hope to increase that number in subsequent iterations of the Space blueprint.

I'm pleased to see that attempts are being made to put study spaces by windows. I'm also pleased that lighting issues are being addressed.

Yes, the Health Sciences Library has adopted the philosophy that "window space is people space". The University Library's Space Report recommends removing the end ranges of some stack areas in Mills to create more seating spaces by the windows.

The new designs should be as flexible as possible. Don't bolt down the tables. Let the students move things around to suit their needs. One student noted his preference for sitting on the floor in stack areas and plugging in his laptop.

We recognize that students will define their spaces to meet their needs. We will attempt to incorporate flexible designs where possible.

The swivel chairs which were in the proposed picture for Knowledge Commons often break or need repairs. They're also more difficult to clean if spilled on. We're proposing to purchase high-quality, ergonomic computer chairs for the Commons [not the lower-grade swivel chairs we're currently using elsewhere in the Library]. We have not identified the final make and model yet - but will take your concerns regarding wear and tear into consideration.
Will we be able to book the group study rooms online? Some students monopolize the rooms. We're very interested in providing the ability to online book our group study rooms - to improve ease and equity of access. Online booking appears on our list of future initiatives for the Mills Knowledge Commons.
I'm pleased to see a new History of Health and Medicine Room in the Health Sciences plan since a new PhD programme is starting up in that area - but is it wise to include a fireplace in the room? Will the room be restricted to those individuals using the archive? The History of Health and Medicine Room will be open to all users.
Glad you've kept the independent study rooms in the Health Sciences Library. Closing off the stairwell is excellent. We know how important the group study rooms are to students and we are pleased that the renovation of the Health Sciences Library will allow for an increase in the number of group rooms. Closing in the stairwell will allow for more open group study space on the upper level, more group study rooms at the bottom of the stairs on the lower level, and will play a big part in creating zones for silent, quiet and group work.

Mixing quiet and group study areas on the same floor must be done carefully because sound can travel. Some equipment like extra doors can be used to block the sound. [Comment submitted at Thode]

Difficult to find places [at Thode] where there is silent study with no laptop use allowed.

I find that when I am sitting in one of the tables along the wall [on the first floor of Thode] I get distracted by what goes on in the main lobby. I suggest putting the bookshelves on JUST ENOUGH of an angle so that the lobby area is not visible from the study area!

The floor plans for Thode are very preliminary. We will take all these valid concerns into consideration as we work through detailed proposals for this building.
Thode plans are an excellent idea. More like Innis. Glad you like the proposed floor layout for Thode - but we're curious to know in what way the new layout looks "like Innis." Please drop us a line at!
We need better chairs to study at [Thode respondent]. The University Library is currently working on a furniture repair/replacement plan. The seats at Thode have been identified as a key issue needing resolution. This past year, we purchased 40 new chairs and had a small number of existing chairs recovered as part of a pilot project. We will continue with this process until the seats are all in satisfactory condition.
Replace all study desks (at Thode) with sound absorbant desks (like the white ones on the 3rd floor). The white carrels on the 3rd floor are falling apart - and will eventually be replaced with new ones. We will take your concerns regarding sound absorption into consideration when selecting new furnishings and wall treatments.

Innis is too small! We need more group study rooms!

Innis is a great library and resource to business students. The proposed changes look good - especially the extra study rooms for group work. The library does need to be bigger - with more computers and areas for group study.

I like the change - to have three new group meeting rooms. But I also like the current computers in the front room. Please keep them there.

Innis is one of the smallest libraries at McMaster. The amount of students that traffic Innis is too much for the amount of space available. I think these recommendations would be perfect for accommodating the large amount of students.

Please have washrooms!

We endorse any opportunity to expand overall floor space as part of future re-allocations in Kenneth Taylor Hall or MGD.
In the meantime, the Library hopes to build three new group study rooms in the front room. As photocopying volume continues to reduce, we also plan to convert the Photocopy Room to group study space. We expect to do some of this work in Summer 2006.

The computer area in the front room would not be altered to make room for the additional group spaces. We'd find the room by reducing the size of the print periodical collection. [Low-use material would be transferred to Mills Periodicals.]


Question / Comment: Response:

Please provide waiting area (sofas) near the entrances of the libraries.
Looks awesome. We need more comfortable chairs.

I'd like to see additional seating and an additional display case in the lobby of Mills. I'd also like to see additional lounge space on the 2nd floor.

We agree. For Mills, we're hoping to add bench seating in the foyer and additional soft seats in the main lobby. We also plan to add new display cabinets and bulletin boards to promote library and campus initiatives. Approximately 80 soft seats will be added to the 2nd floor of Mills - most of them around the windows in the large reading room.


Question / Comment: Response:
Will the renovations have any impact on your acquisitions budget? Don't lose sight of the fact that the collections are still very important. Money will not be removed from the acquisitions budgets to pay for renovations. The University Library, for example, intends to add 300,000 new items to its collections in the next ten years. 17,000 new monographs will be purchased next year.
Where will the national bibliography material currently housed in the 2nd floor reading room go when the Mills Commons is built? Final decisions have not been made. Print material replicated in electronic or microform sources may be relocated to storage. National bibliography material only available in print form will not be discarded!
Pleased to hear that we're getting new microform equipment in Mills. Where will the film currently held in cabinets on the Mezzanine go when the Commons is built? The film cabinets will be relocated elsewhere on the 3rd floor.


Question/Comment: Response:

Why are you adding so many "fixed" / hard-wired stations in Mills when the University is supporting wireless access?

I am thrilled that there will be more computers available for researching and accessing class materials.

I like the idea of increasing the number of computers available in Mills because every time I go there I have to wait in line. I don't know if the "Knowledge Commons" will necessarily provide more computers, or if it's just an elaborate name for moving the computers at Mills from the main area on the 2nd floor to the Study Room.

Although the exact number of wired stations may change in the final floor plans, we expect to dramatically increase the number of wired stations (in addition to wireless connections) as part of the Mills Commons project. Our reasoning is based on several factors:

  • Our surveys indicate that students may own laptops but they are often reluctant to bring them to campus due to security issues or the sheer inconvenience of lugging them around. Demand on our wired stations remains very high.
  • Currently wireless networks do not perform at the same speeds as wired networks: Because of the shared connections, increases in load can result in decreased performance.
  • We will be offering software that students probably would not have on their laptops.
I think that the plan to add more computers is excellent, but there needs to be enough space around them so that students can also have room to lay out their books. We need to flip back and forth from internet access to our class notes and texts. We agree. We're looking at generously-sized furnishings to allow students to spread out their work.
Sometimes we see several students huddled around a single station. Will the new configuration support group work? Yes, the furnishings in the new computer spaces will provide more space for group work. In the current Mills design, stations at the end of the tables can seat three students. We expect to expand this capability in the final design.
Will we be able to book time on computers? The University Library is looking at the possibility of booking time on designated stations with access to specialized software (e.g., data manipulation software, adaptive technologies software, etc.). We hope that the large critical mass of public computers will reduce the need for booking time for general purposes.
Would like to see more computer software on the computers (like "Word", "Excel", etc.)

Need actual MS Office programs on the computers (i.e., this was the only place open on Good Friday to computers, but you can't create anything!).

The Health Sciences Library installed productivity software on 12 public machines this year as a pilot before the Learning Commons is established. This has been successful and will be expanded in the renovated library. The University Library will be adding productivity software as part of its Commons project. The exact software to be provided is yet to be determined, but will definitely include the standard Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel and PowerPoint).
Will you be implementing a time limit on computers being used for writing essays and such? Both the Health Sciences and Mills Commons plans include banks of "express" stations designated for quick access. We are also considering posting signs asking people to limit their use to a designated period of time.
I don't like the idea [of putting] computers in the group study area in Mills. People who need to use computers can go outside to where they are on the 2nd floor. Right now, we only have 42 stations on the 2nd floor of Mills with a total of 102 in the building. Demand for these stations is intense. When we asked users last spring what single thing we could do to improve the quality of our public spaces in Mills, the number one response was "more computers". Room 211 will remain a group study environment.
I am very excited about the new plans for the [Mills Commons]. I am a visually impaired student and I would like to know if all of the new workstations in the Knowledge Commons will be equipped with screen-enlargening software (eg. ZoomText). Yes, there is a room on the main floor equipped for students registered with the CSD, but it would be better if the visually impaired had just as much access to the new Knowledge Commons as normally-sighted people do. Both the Health Sciences Library and the University Library are working with the Centre for Student Development to ensure that renovations meet the needs of students with disabilities. We hope to add adaptive technology software to as many stations as possible within our Commons facilities. Discussions are underway to relocate the services currently provided in the 1st floor of Mills into the Knowledge Commons.
Update monitors, keyboards and mouses as some of them are too old to be functioned properly. Up until now the Library has had a shortage of equipment and has had to keep equipment in use beyond its normal lifespan.
We have tried to use the older equipment for limited functionality applications such as e-mail, MORRIS (library catalogue) only and reserve. With the purchase of 175-200 new workstations for the Knowledge Commons there should be enough new workstations to accommodate student demand.


Question /Comment: Response:
A faculty member described the concept of "Open Reserve" (as is being proposed at Health Sciences Library) as "hopeless". Her students complain that nothing is ever available on the open 1-day loan reserve shelves in Mills. The Open Reserve Room in the renovated Health Sciences Library is intended to enhance service to students by allowing them to browse these very popular books. There will be a security gate at the entrance to the Open Reserve Room, so that it will be necessary to check books out for the normal reserve loan period (typically 2 hours) if users want to take the books out of that room, to use elsewhere in the Library. Also, library staff will be re-shelving the books in the Open Reserve Room on a very regular basis to ensure that they are readily available on the reserve shelves.
How successful has the laptop lending programme been at Health Sciences Library? Is the University Library considering offering such a service?

The Health Sciences laptop lending programme has been extremely successful. The five laptops have circulated over 1,000 times - with no reports of theft or damage to date.

The University Library has included laptop lending in the list of possible services to be offered in a Commons environment over the long term.

Are you planning on introducing Virtual Reference as part of the Commons facilities? Both the Health Sciences Library and the University Library currently provide e-mail based reference. The University Library is planning on piloting a fairly basic chat-based e-mail service this summer.
Have you considered an electronic bulletin board in your lobbies to promote new library products and services? The libraries have recently implemented a BLOG. The University Library has discussed the idea of running the electronic news service from a monitor in the lobbies - possibly incorporating external news feeds.


Question / Comment: Response:

The new e-resources are wonderful but they only work if there is a human interface to help users work through the thickets. It's "short sighted" to think staff can do more with less. The instruction programme has reached many 1st and 2nd year students - but many upper level students are not aware of key resources (e.g., Historical Abstracts) or how to use them. Not all students have the same technology skills.

Personnel will be critical to the educational features, and they will have to be aware not only of the electronic resources (ceaseless growth in that realm is certain), but of the utility of examining "the stacks", of looking at items on the shelves. That is a quick, efficient, inspiring, exciting process, and must not (yet) be displaced by the idea that wisdom and knowledge are only found through electronic media.

We agree that expertise is essential to supporting the new learning spaces. The Mills Knowledge Commons Services Model Working Group will be recommending various staffing scenarios as part of its report. The recommendation will include a combination of library staff for the provision of Research Help and a small army of University Technology Services (formerly CIS) students for the provision of IT Help.
Who will enforce noise and food regulations in the Mills Knowledge Commons? During standard library hours, regular library staff, supplemented by UTS student consultants, will enforce library regulations. If the Knowledge Commons is open past regular library hours, noise and food regulations will be monitored by the UTS student consultants.


Question / Comment: Response:
The Mills Knowledge Commons looks dark and dingy. The lighting is abysmal. The Mills Knowledge Commons renovation will include a significant lighting upgrade. The light fixtures in the large reading room (L211) will be lowered by six feet and retrofitted with new fixtures.

I urge you to consider acquiring study carrels that each have a light and an outlet (the University of Guelph has them).

It has become increasingly difficult to find a seat [at Thode] in a well lit and quiet area ... There is not sufficient lighting on the sides of the 2nd floor quiet study areas. I would suggest that more ceiling lights be placed in these areas of low lighting to provide less strain for the eyes of the students who sit there.

Thode Library needs more light. Most of the 1st floor doesn't have sufficient light. I found that it is difficult to study and it is very bad for my eyes. School can install light anytime, but student cannot buy their eyesight.

We need more electrical outlets to plug our laptops in around the libraries. Will you be adding more outlets as part of your renovations?

One thing that we really need in Thode is more electric plugs for notebook use. It would be great if you could provide one plug for every one or two desks in the library.

We agree that powered carrels are the way to go. The Mills Knowledge Commons will feature many powered tables with built-in electrical outlets. The Health Sciences Library is adding a significant number of new electrical outlets as part of its renovation.

Adding electrical power to existing spaces is very costly - but we're moving ahead as quickly as funds will allow. The University Library is purchasing a small number of carrels with power outlets this summer (through a generous donation from the Class of '55). We are also retrofitting some existing carrels in the Music Area in Mills with electrical outlets. Blocks of carrels at Thode are also being retrofitted with power and light.


Question / Comment: Response:
We understand that many thefts occur in the libraries each year. Will the libraries be implementing additional security features as part of renovations?

Security is really broader than the libraries. Reducing thefts is a campus-wide issue.

The Library has mounted security cameras at all entrances and posts signs reminding students not to leave their personal belongings unattended. Staff patrol the libraries more during exam time when the number of thefts tends to escalate. We would appreciate hearing any ideas you might have for improving security in the buildings.


Question / Comment: Response:
The Library should just accept the fact that students are eating in the buildings - but work on increasing maintenance to deal with it.

Please put signs everywhere to stop students from eating in the library. The study rooms are very dirty after being used every day.

Eating would be great!

I am not sure how library employees would deter patrons from bringing café food into the Health Sciences Library. I think the café is a nice but very impractical addition to a library.

The Health Sciences Library is incorporating a café as part of the renovation. The University Library will continue to prohibit food in Mills, Innis and Thode given concerns about vermin, odours and debris.


Question / Comment: Response:

Although I agree that additional seating is a good idea for Thode Library, I suggest that the majority of this seating be allocated to individual, quiet study areas. From my own personal experience, it is certainly more effective to study when studying alone, and the majority of the people looking for seats are seeking single seat, quiet study areas.

The group tables need to be separated from the cubicles better (a physical barrier perhaps?) With all the inquiry projects we have (in Health Sciences AND Biochemistry, we need somewhere to work as groups. We need to talk, and we're constantly being yelled at by people trying to do silent study in the group areas.

The "voice down" policy should be strictly enforced, particularly when the library is crowded. Study groups should be directed/encouraged to use separate rooms, not quiet spaces.

Proposals for dramatically changing the arrangement of collection and study space in Thode are at a very rudimentary stage. A significant amount of discussion will need to take place with the various user groups before more detailed plans (including the allotment of individual and group study space) can be put forward.

Please report specific noise problems to the Circulation Desk at the time that they occur.

Can some areas of the Mills Knowledge Commons be designated as quieter zones? Will an attempt be made to keep noise down around the Research Help desk in Mills?

I like Mills 2nd floor the way it is, where everyone is allowed to talk. When it comes to studying in a quiet place, I tend to get sleepy, so the noise helps me to stay awake.

We anticipate that the area currently used as a large reading room (Room 211) will be a noisy place (much as it is now). The seating configuration supports group environments (computers with space for group work, powered tables and soft seating). The area around the Research Help / IT Help Desk should be quieter since the furnishings are designed for independent work. (Consideration will be given to using noise absorbing panels in the Research Area.)

Innis needs less phones ringing in the silent study room. The study rooms need to be sound proof so that the noise from other rooms doesn't come through the vents.

Signs have been posted in all libraries indicating that the use of cell phones is prohibited except in designated areas. Most users are respectful of this request. Please let us know at one of the Circulation Desks if someone is being discourteous about their cell phone use.

I love the Health Sciences Library. I've been coming here all the time for 2 years now. This year I have noticed that this library has gotten a lot busier and very very loud. Because of the open upper and bottom levels, the people upstairs seem even louder to us downstairs. I find that it is turning into a "Mills Library" - way too social and loud. People (normally in Science) come here not to socialize/be loud but to actually study. It would be appreciated if the people at the front desk would tell the people upstairs to be quiet because it isn't fair to the rest of us.

I would really like to see more SILENT study space added to the architectural plans: I think the currently planned amount is insufficient....I propose an area reserved for Graduate Students (OT, PT, Meds). This area would be for those needing silent study.

The HSL plans to close in the stairwell to help reduce the amount of noise travelling between the floors. The floor plans include designated areas for silent, quiet and group work.


Question / Comment: Response:

What hours will the Commons facilities be open? Students need and want longer hours. For example, we want someplace to study past 6:00 p.m. on Saturday nights!

The Mills Commons looks awesome. 24-hour access would be cool.

I think the idea of a Knowledge Commons is wonderful. A university I attended overseas had a 24-hour information commons which was a great location to do work, and finish printing completed assignments/projects. The 24-hour information commons had a separate entrance so security was not needed for the entire library.

The Health Sciences Library hours will remain as they are.

The portion of the Mills Commons currently being used as a large reading room (Room 211) will have the potential for extended hours if funding is available and demand warrants. The room would be closed off to prevent access to the rest of the Library. Access would be from the Tower Entrance on the east side of the building.

Hope the [Innis] Library can be open 24 hours during final period.

A few years back, the MSU funded 24-hour study at the Innis Library. That programme was relocated to the Student Centre once that building was opened.

The Knowledge Commons project will provide the capability for 24-hour access in designated areas should demand warrant and funding can be found.