home > publishing > aarl > 34.3 > full.text > issue 34.3
Function changes form: evolution of the Sunshine Coast University Library
Abstract: The construction of the ICT Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast is an opportunity to review the original design and purpose of the architectural award winning University of the Sunshine Coast Library building. The article describes the proposed renovations to the existing library building, including the creation of an information commons, and the library expansion into the new ICT Centre. The planned changes reflect the continued growth and development of the university and the impact that this has on the physical, technical and organisational functions and structures of the library. Existing and draft floor plans of the library and pictures of the buildings are available at http://www.usc.edu.au/library/libraryD.html#plans.
In 1997, I wrote an article for inCite, the news magazine of the Australian Library and Information Association, describing the new library building at the University of the Sunshine Coast. The article was entitled, Form does Equal Function, reflecting how the architecture of the library building was purposely designed to suit the function of establishing a modern library for a new, independent public university that opened at Sippy Downs on Queensland's Sunshine Coast in February 1996. Eight years later, the university has commenced construction of a new ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Centre, to be linked to the existing library building. It is timely to reflect on the original purpose of the library building and to note the experiences that have shaped plans for both the new building and changes to the existing library building. This time the article is entitled 'Function Changes Form', as the function of both buildings certainly is changing the form, especially the interior form, of the existing library building.
The establishment of the University of the Sunshine Coast in 1996 created the first new public university on a greenfield site in Australia in 23 years. The University Library, which opened in 1997, is a three-storey, 3200 square metre of usable space complex designed by Australian architects Lawrence Nield and Partners and John Mainwaring and Associates. The building design has many sub-tropical features including an expansive timber veranda that appeals to many Australians as a modern reflection of the Queenslander style of architecture. The university's ambition was to build a modern library that would stimulate and inspire students to access information and ideas and would be a centrepiece of the campus. Central to the design was that it would reflect the spirit of adventure and excitement created by the establishment of a new, independent university and be multi-purpose in function. The library was built, serviced and landscaped at a cost of $6.4 million. The distinctive building has won numerous design accolades including Australia's building of the year in 1997, the prestigious Sir Zelman Cowen Award by the National Royal Australian Institute of Architects.
In 2002, the university began planning for the construction of an ICT Centre. The objectives of the project are to provide the physical infrastructure so that the University of the Sunshine Coast can extend its boundaries beyond the main campus at Sippy Downs using innovative technologies to enable knowledge access and to provide flexible learning spaces to strengthen its teaching, learning and research goals. On completion of the project the new facility is to:
The ICT Centre is a five storey, 6000 gross square metre facility that will house a range of activities including: computer laboratories, multimedia studios, the university's Computing and Communications Division, International Student Office and the English Language Centre, the Student Guild, Reprographics, Records and Registry, campus bookstore, etc. Education Queensland has contributed $2.7 million towards the $15.5 million project and will occupy the third floor of the building. There, Education Queensland plans to create a hub for its own e-learning initiatives to assist schools in the Sunshine Coast region and across the state including the new Chancellor State College, a public school located next to the main university campus. Courtyard space in front of the ICT Centre will encourage informal gatherings of students, staff and visitors to enjoy the sub-tropical climate of southern Queensland. Two additional separate buildings, a café and art gallery, will be located adjacent to the courtyard adding to its social and community use.
The largest building on campus, the ICT Centre is designed to complement surrounding buildings, and be physically linked with the university's library to form the campus hub. The principal architect is Noel Robinson from DesignInc Brisbane. The building is scheduled to open in February 2004.
Linking the buildings
As with most universities, the University of the Sunshine Coast has a master plan, amended in 2001, to guide campus developments. The planning principles for the original master plan included buildings arranged in a linear avenue with each building's principal entrance facing a central, common and open green space, similar to that of Thomas Jefferson's plan for the University of Virginia. The library building was intended to be in the centre of the open green space but the library architects suggested that the building be set slightly back from the centre to emphasise the transparency of the building with the avenue seeming to flow through the library's open veranda. The original master plan also set a limit of three storeys for the height of the front row of campus buildings, with an exception for special use buildings that could exceed the limitation if needed. The revised master plan now allows for buildings up to six storeys in height, especially for buildings such as the ICT Centre, not facing the central linear space.
Interestingly, the Master Plan does not prescribe any specific architectural style. Instead, it reflects four priority objectives as outlined in the University's Strategic Plan including distinctiveness, growth and development, flexibilty and innovation, and quality to inform and to develop the Master Plan goals including:
The goals and the detailed guidelines in the Master Plan including those for climate, site control, landscaping and lighting provide sufficient unity thus allowing the university to engage different architectural teams to design facilities that reflect the vision and identity of an evolving university.
Linking the largest building on campus to the existing library building, however, is no mean feat. The library building architecture is considered iconic and the building has gained national and international recognition. 'Here is a piece of architecture with an idea, an identity and an intellectual content which reflect both the relaxed open-air character of the north coast and the aspirations of a new centre of learning and research. It is a sophisticated building at many levels.' The recent introduction of moral rights into the Australian Copyright Act has also meant that for any renovations and extensions to buildings, appropriate notice must be given to the building's architect in order to record the work and to allow the architect to consult with the owner about the change. While the university has used the master plan, and has developed specific building briefs, it is an increasing complex scenario to balance the functional requirements outlined in the building briefs, with the principles of the master plan, along with the rights of current and past architects.
The library building functional brief, prepared by Dr David Jones from the Building Advisory Branch of the State Library of New South Wales, in July 1995, included an instruction to consider a future library extension that would be economical and achieved with minimum disruption. The architects for the ICT Centre have proposed doing so via a walkway linking the second floor of the new ICT Centre to the 2nd floor of the library building. The second floor, or top level, of the library building is considered to be the showcase floor where the flared roof provides an abundance of natural light and windows provide an outlook to the university's lake. The second floor also accommodates the majority of the library's print and audio-visual collections and individual and group reading areas. The walkway is considered to be the least invasive approach to the library building while still providing additional space for the growing collection and demand for more study and reading areas. The existing library building will also undergo renovations to:
Renovations to the library building
The library is designed to facilitate access to information in all formats - print, electronic, multimedia. The 1995 functional brief identified that printed items would be a dominate source of information especially for undergraduates and the total library collection would number some 80 000 volumes, most of which to be housed in open stack with a separate provision for reference works and for open reserve. While the brief indicated that emerging information and communication technologies would be rapidly adopted, and that there would be an increasing reliance on electronic text retrieval, it under estimated the library's acquisition of electronic databases, especially for full-text journals. The library quickly embraced the concept of access as opposed to ownership for developing electronic collections and through the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) is able to co-operatively participate in a consortium approach to facilitate access to electronic information resources.
Even with increasing electronic access to information resources, shortly after the ICT Centre opens in 2004, the present shelving capacity of 80 000 print volumes will almost be exceeded. Therefore, one of the principle objectives of the new ICT Centre is to provide additional space for the print collections. The additional library space on the second floor of the ICT Centre will provide an opportunity to double the existing shelving capacity. Initially, space will be allocated to accommodate the expected growth in the print collection over the next three years for 27 000 additional volumes. However, even with the additional space, the functional brief still is correct in stating that 'Physical and economic constraints will limit the size of the library and information will continually have to be obtained from other sources.' While we continue to acquire items in the most suitable format, including print, shared access to collections, especially research collections, is increasingly important as the university develops its research programs and centres. The library recently began a project for university staff and research students to receive unmediated document delivery to provide access to items held elsewhere. The library is also a member of University Library Australia, a national borrowing scheme, whereby our students and staff may access and borrow directly from any university library in Australia. Library staff continue to explore the acquisition of traditional print collections in electronic format including e-books, and investigate establishing collaborative e-print repositories and using video streaming techniques to provide access to audio-visual items.
Currently the library's public entrance and exit are combined and are accessible from the veranda on the first level (see http://www.usc.edu.au/library/libraryD.html#plans for floor plans of the existing library building). The library's service points are conveniently located on the entry level including: loans, reference, reserve, current serials display, casual reading and study areas, IT help desk, two computer laboratories, an Adaptive Technologies Centre for students with disabilities, and staff areas for library and information technology services. Most of the renovations to the library building will be on this floor and will improve traffic flows and increase computer access. Leading to the second floor, the main staircase will remain unchanged, as it provides a wonderful view of the campus down to the Mooloolah National Park. The second floor, flooded with natural light during the day and with reflective ceiling light at night, is an inviting place from which to access the majority of the library's print collections. The second floor also offers an expansive open space with a variety of reader seating including carrels, tables, and group study rooms most of which include power and data access for clients' laptop computers. There will be minimal changes to this floor with the focus on improving access to the library's print collections, providing computers in the existing group study rooms, and wireless connectivity. Located on the ground floor level are administration offices, more open reader seating, group study rooms, a seminar room, and gallery space for lectures, exhibitions, and public performances. The group study rooms on this level will be reconfigured as space for students with disabilities. The construction of a new art gallery outside of the library building means that the existing gallery space will be converted to accommodate a new function, still to be determined.
The 1995 functional brief stipulated that the library interior should be flexible and adaptable, designed to accommodate change, with a minimum of load-bearing walls and columns. This design specification has proven to be very useful as renovations to the library's first floor now include a new separate public entrance to the building, and the creation of an information commons. In 2002, the library conducted a client survey and found, unsurprisingly, that the majority of clients wanted more access to computers in the library. As the IT help desk is also located in the library building, we have plans to create an information commons to provide for additional computers, to create and to access information, and to build upon the support offered by both the reference and IT help desks. As more group work is included in the university's curriculum, students require a physically and technologically collaborative environment. The information commons is designed to facilitate the trinity of student needs, whereby 'students must be prepared to embrace technology, to work collaboratively, and to interact with a diverse set of people and ideas.'
The information commons will include about 104 computers, and will necessitate the removal of the following: two computer labs, the Adaptive Technologies Centre (to be relocated to the ground floor), current serials display, the reference collection, study carrels and an office. The current serials display will be integrated back into the print serials collection located on the second floor and the print reference collection, which is used mainly by the undergraduates, will be weeded and then relocated up to the second floor of the library. The study carrels will be relocated into the new library space in the ICT Centre that will also provide for eight additional group study rooms. The two computers labs (28 seat capacity) will be replaced by one lab with a capacity of 20 that will open onto the information commons when not required as a teaching space. Library staff will be able to close off the lab as needed when conducting information literacy tutorials. The lab will include an interactive whiteboard to enable the audio/video capture of activities, including written text into digital format, for distributed collaboration. Synchronising software can also be used with the interactive whiteboards to give librarians and lecturers control of the students' desktop, and to display selected screen desktops, to facilitate and to analyse learning techniques and strategies. The information commons will support both wired and wireless network connections. The furniture will be ergonomic and functional but workstations will be freeform, designed to flow not to be linear, to support both individual and collaborative work. To view the draft floor plan for the Information Commons go to http://www.usc.edu.au/library/libraryD.html# plans.
The second floor of the ICT Centre will also be a temporary home for five new computer labs with similar technical capabilities as the library lab. As a growing university there are many competing demands for space in a new building. The university's English Language Centre is a very successful operation and has quickly outgrown the space in its existing location. As a result, two floors of the new ICT Centre had to be allocated to this venture. Since the library does not initially require all of the space available on the second floor of the ICT Centre, the five new computer labs will also be located on this floor. As the library collection grows and additional space is required, the computer labs will then be relocated to future space either elsewhere in the ICT Centre or to a future building. As the computer labs have 24-hour access, and the library does not, access to these labs is via the stairs and elevator serving the ICT Centre. However, a one-way-only revolving door, will be installed to enable access to the library space from inside the ICT Centre on the second floor. Once inside the library, clients will use the walkway to exit the library building from the first floor. This will provide security for the collections and will provide access into the library from a point other than the library's main entry. It is anticipated that this approach will link the library to the ICT Centre and will encourage student traffic from the computer labs to the library collections and to group study space. The library has shown a steady increase in building traffic each year and just as it is important for our collections to be accessible, it is also important that the physical presence of the library continue to be highly accessible as per the original brief. To view the draft floor plan for the library expansion into the ICT Centre go to http://www.usc.edu.au/library/libraryD.html#plans.
The library functional brief also had the building housing both the library and the university's Computer Centre as one contiguous and integrated whole. However, the brief did not anticipate the rapid growth of the university's information technologies. Since 1996, the university's servers have increased from one to twenty-five, at last count, and the network continues to grow. The library building cannot accommodate all IT staff nor all the IT equipment needed to serve the university. Recently a new division, Computing and Communications, was created and the 25 IT staff will move into the ICT Centre, along with a new, additional computer control room. The physical separation will present a new communication challenge for library and IT staff. It is convenient and instructional having IT staff seated next to you, especially when there is a problem with the network. IT staff have also found it very useful having library staff trial new services and upgrades. However, the move frees up additional space in the library building to accommodate future growth in library staffing numbers and in the library computer control room for future library related servers including an e-print server.
It is likely that library staff will be communicating and collaborating more with other areas of the university, including learning support staff and research higher degree students, as future plans may emerge for a learning commons and for a postgraduate study centre to be located within the library. At this stage, the concept of the learning commons is still in its infancy but an example is the Chapman Learning Commons at the University of British Columbia [http://www.library.ubc.ca/chapmanlearningcommons/]. USC library staff anticipate working collaboratively with Student Affairs staff to provide an innovative, technology rich space for students seeking learning support and assistance such as disability support, language support, academic and career advancement, study skills, exam preparation from both their peers and from university staff.
With all of these changes, it is interesting to note just how true the library is staying to the design components and requirements contained in the 1995 functional brief. It is still the focal point on campus as a place for learning and collaboration both physically and virtually.
Heather Gordon, executive director, Information Services, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, DC 4558. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (please remove '.nospam' from address).