Developing Collaborative Spaces That Encourage Community Engagement

Collaborative Spaces
Students play the educational game, “That’s Baloney!” The media table contributes to the interactive learning environment.

Collaboration is a topic that has been getting more and more attention in many different contexts. Collaborative skills are expected in the workplace, at school and as many community organizations begin to further leverage partnerships and relationships to further extend their resources. With technology we can collaborate anytime, anywhere and with anyone around the globe. But sometimes we need to be face-to-face and need spaces that elevate working collaboratively. Providing furniture that supports group work or a whiteboard and monitor in a study room is a good start, but collaborative spaces demand more thought and planning to be successful.

At the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2014 Annual Conference & Exhibition, we brought together a panel of experts that included library consultant, Kim Bolan Cullin; interior designer, Traci Engel Lesneski; dean of libraries, Dr. Julie Miller; library director, Pamela Vaughn; and myself to present a program called Developing Collaborative Spaces that Encourage Community Engagement.

Our program addressed a number of topics that are crucial to addressing collaboration spaces in the library and provide examples of the different types of spaces that can work for libraries of varying sizes and budgets. We also discussed the building blocks of developing great collaborative spaces and explored how they can be the basis of greater community engagement.

Throughout that presentation, we spent time exploring how changing learning models are leading to new solutions in the types of spaces that libraries need. In addition, these spaces are required to be more and more adaptable to best utilize the available resources and optimize the user experience in a variety of different activities. Inevitably the spaces have a wide variety of users and accommodating their various needs is a key objective that needs to be taken into consideration. Finally, these spaces and collaborative tools continue to evolve and change and it is important to be able to keep up with the changing needs that will continue to engage each community.

Take some time to explore this presentation and discover new ideas for your spaces. For additional information, I recommend taking a look at our Collaborative Spaces webinar or reading “Beyond Whiteboards and Study Rooms: Taking Collaboration to the Next Level.”


Janet Nelson

Janet Nelson

Janet is the former Director of Library Engagement and Solutions at Demco. She managed and developed relationships with key industry leaders to understand changing library trends and services.