Come Together! Collaborative Spaces in the Library

At schools, colleges and universities, working together to solve problems and complete projects deepens students’ learning and builds collaborative skills. This type of collaboration — working together on a common goal and creating solutions beyond what individuals can achieve on their own — is also a natural fit for libraries and communities. Collaborative spaces unite physical and digital worlds and create environments that are conducive to group problem solving.

How can you channel productive collaboration? What are the latest collaboration solutions? Read on to learn what is new and noteworthy in collaborative spaces.

The Trends

Based on library visits and conferences, my colleagues and I are finding that more and more libraries, especially public and academic libraries, are adding study rooms to their layout. However, I will say libraries are getting creative here. Study rooms can be permanent, but they can just as easily be temporary spaces.

But these are not necessarily study rooms for a party of one. As Tina Barseghian writes in “The Trends That Define the Future of Teaching and Learning,” collaborative learning boosts everyone’s game. In working together, people find common ground, balance each others’ skills and push each other. The same is true for the workplace.

“The libraries of the 21st century provide a welcoming common space that encourages exploration, creation, and collaboration between students, teachers, and a broader community.”

4 Collaborative Space Concepts

Overall, spaces are changing in 4 key ways to reflect modern collaboration preferences and practices. Libraries pick and choose the collaborative space elements that work the best for their environment and communities.

1. Create Flexibility

First, with flexibility, furniture that easily moves may be nice, but that’s not the whole story. Variety is a key aspect of collaboration. In the same space, you can have multiple arrangements and different zones. This accommodates groups of different sizes, offers private and public areas and allows for different activities.

2. Enable Collaboration

Having the right tools in house makes for effective group work. Collaboration tools range from low-tech whiteboards to high-tech media tables. In addition, different types of furniture let users define how they want to collaborate.

Providing a mix of furniture heights creates different social modes and accommodates people doing different tasks, such as studying alone or together.

3. Provide Comfort

Comfort is more than a cushy seat. It’s also about facilitating different learning and sharing styles, allowing for informal activities and embracing non-traditional approaches to learning.

For example, at Chicago’s Francis W. Parker School, cubicles and stacks were removed to open up the space for movable chairs, desks and bookshelves. Now the space is ideal for group projects, students can write on the end panels and a new mood of sharing abounds.

4. Integrate Technology

Technology, such as media tables or interactive screens, can be great additions to collaborative spaces. It’s not technology for technology’s sake, but rather enabling students and patrons to share content and advance their thinking.

Another way to describe this is co-learning. Students can connect with other classrooms in other states or countries to collaborate on projects or academic competitions. Entrepreneurs can advance their business ideas through collaborative online discussions.

Better Together

Collaborative spaces at the library play a crucial role in helping people work together to solve our society’s toughest challenges.

Browse our idea gallery to see the latest products and solutions.


Julie Hornby

Julie Hornby

Julie is a Demco Product Manager, specializing in furniture. She looks at the latest library seating trends and adjusts product lines accordingly. With her eagle eye for details, she prioritizes quality and performance. Julie has been with Demco for more than 15 years, excelling at new product development and merchandising. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.