Nov. 20 study environments discussion canceled

NOTE: The Nov. 20 discussion of study environment research by WSU Vancouver’s Karen Diller has been canceled.


By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries

PULLMAN, Wash. – Every day on the way to her office at Washington State University’s Holland Library, Carol Robinson walks past new study stations on the second floor, noting the arrangement of chairs, tables and whiteboards. She knows that in a couple of hours, the arrangement will all be different as students move furniture to suit their groups.

That’s just what Robinson and other library administrators want the students to do.

“It took them a while to figure out that the furniture was all movable – much of it is on casters so it can be moved to new configurations as students need them for studying – and that it was okay to move it,” said Robinson, director of administrative services for WSU Libraries.

At home in the library

study-window-550At the beginning of the semester, Holland and Terrell Libraries installed the new chairs, tables and whiteboards in four areas to provide electrical access for students’ laptops and mobile devices, better seating, better ergonomics and more flexible spaces.

Students have made themselves at home – seated at the stations, alone or in groups, most with earbuds plugged into their phones, and coffee or water and snacks next to their laptops. Whiteboards are covered with mathematical or chemical equations, but one student posted a quote from the Buddha: “The mind that perceives the limitation is the limitation.”

two-study-550Dominic Niolu, a senior majoring in finance from Bothell, Wash., comes to the study space almost every day. He said he likes that the area is open but still semi-private: the perfect environment for a group.

“Most people I know come in groups,” he said. “It’s more of a motivation to come to the library with people who want to study too.”

Four students from Gamma Phi Beta sorority were at Holland for just that reason: Elle Harris, a sophomore in elementary education from Seattle; Samantha Radics, a freshman also in elementary education from Seattle; Fatima Mseitif, a junior in international business from Sammamish, Wash.; and Maryn Fridley, a junior in human development from Vancouver, Wash.

“I like that you can ask questions, kind of like a tutoring session,” Radics said.

Restorative library study spaces

Meanwhile, at WSU Vancouver, associate library director Karen Diller is studying how library study spaces can be helpful in relieving mental fatigue and supporting effective study strategies. She will present the results from her dissertation research in Pullman at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, in Terrell 103.


She said she chose her topic for several reasons. First, WSU Vancouver students tend to be nontraditional – holding down jobs and raising families – and are increasingly stressed from financial concerns and additional time constraints.

“We see so many students who rush into the library with limited time or who have problems concentrating because of outside stressors,” she said. “I wanted to find something to help them.

“At the same time, our physical library collections are growing at a slower pace, and our buildings no longer need to concentrate on storage,” she said. “So how should we configure them for what students need?”

Green view preferred

Diller surveyed 243 undergraduates from WSU Vancouver and Emporia State University in Kansas. Participants viewed slides depicting various library study spaces, including space with a view to greenery, space with a view of buildings, space without any window or indoor plants and space with indoor plants.

Most respondents found the space with a view to greenery to be more restorative than other spaces, Diller said. They also found this kind of space to be more compatible with their study goals, so they were more likely to come to the library to study more often and stay longer.

“These results lead me to tentatively conclude that maximizing window views of natural spaces may be one of the more universal and successful design principles to use in academic libraries,” Diller said.

“So can academic libraries design spaces that help students recover more quickly from mental fatigue so that they can employ successful study strategies?” she said. “What better place on campus?”


Karen Diller, WSU Vancouver associate library director, 360-546-9179,
Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries public relations/communication coordinator, 509-335-6744,