Sheffield Hallam University

Adsetts Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, 25 June 2009

I met Deborah Harrup, Social and Creative Space Co-ordinator, who looks after the new learning space and is involved in the ongoing redevelopment of their learning centres. She is heavily involved in research into learners’ behaviour, their activities and attitudes to physical library spaces.

The Adsetts Centre adjoins the existing library and was completed in November 2008.

Entry is adjacent to the main library and it has a cafe on the ground floor. Students are able to take food and drink into the space which is open 24/7. Staff are available until 9pm during the week with security staff on duty through the night. Interestingly, the Adsetts is open to the public, which is very convenient as it is located in the city centre.

There are a variety of areas designed to suit different ways of working, with furniture and layouts set out in a spacious environment. In addition there are a number of small meeting rooms which are bookable for students to work on presentations and group projects. Each of these rooms have IT and AV technology. Otherwise, there is wireless access available throughout.

The existing library area has large study spaces which are more traditional, but there are plans to develop new layouts with different furniture. Deborah described the types of research that SHU has carried out in the centre. Qualitative research consisted of asking students how they used the space, staff gave them digital cameras and asked them to take photos of where and how they preferred to work. Staff asked them questions once the cameras were returned and the photos were uploaded.

They also held focus group sessions and sent out questionnaires. Students asked that the new space should be free of technology, as most have their own laptops but that often they just wanted somewhere to meet and talk. However, each cluster of tables or seating areas have mains supply points.

I asked Deborah how the students used the space and how much respect they gave it. Apparently it is used very well, the facilities are treated with respect and most behaviour is very good. Furniture is occasionally moved within the centre but staff do not move it back nor are they concerned about this. The were very clear about the need for quality, hence the contract with Herman Miller for the furniture. It is of a very high standard and comfort, something that the staff were adamant was important. Herman Miller is also famous for its sustainability and use of recycled products.

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