Last week I had an opportunity to check out the new digs. There is new furniture there – moveable tables and chairs that can be configured differently, as well as some booths. The decor is much more colorful. Gone are the all-beige tables and chairs, replaced with (in my humble opinion) much brighter, cheerier hues.
It’s also a lot more varied. Instead of one type of table and one type of chair, you have options in the type of seating that works best for you. (Your students may be a bit young to have to worry about back issues and which types of seats are more comfortable for them, but I am a big fan of having options and choices). While I was there, these new tables, chairs, and booths were being used by summer school students. People seemed to find the kind of seating they liked and staked out their space accordingly.
The old tables and chairs have been redeployed to other places in the library. I had heard rumors of some concern from students about feeling like they had “lost” seating (because the new atrium furniture is a lot leaner and lighter looking and more seats are along the walls, making the atrium look less full than before). Truth is, the seating has actually increased, because the old tables are now scattered elsewhere (as in this picture from the 4th floor reading room). Another plus, they were able to add a bunch more power outlets and USB outlets. The ZSR has outlined some of the thought process behind the new design (and has links to better pics than I took).
One of the constants at universities is change. New buildings, new programs, new ideas. I remember when we first decided to go to an all-laptop platform and have everyone use email. There were some who were concerned about the change and worried that email would replace that face-to-face, conversational feel of the university. It didn’t – at least not from what I heard and observed. My bet is that different furniture and a new color scheme won’t change the essential nature of the ZSR. After test driving it for awhile, your students might even like it more than before.