Planning for Higher Education Journal

What Size Libraries for 2010?

Journal Cover
From Volume 21 Number 4 | Summer 1993
By Michael W Matier, Clint C Sidle

College and university libraries are in constant need of increased space. The volume of printed materials is rising at ever-increasing rates. The question of how much library space to plan for the future is therefore an important one. Library space needs are doubling every 15 years. Does this mean that square footage of library space must grow without end? This question was asked at Cornell University, and the result was a strategic plan for library space needs through 2010. The net assignable square feet of the Cornell library has grown tremendously since 1951, yet most of the campus libraries have space deficits. This must be addressed along with the desire of the university to limit new construction on central campus to preserve open space and to move toward the virtual library. Two seperate approaches were used in the space needs anaysis. The first was the conventional approach, in which collections and user space needs are projected into the future. The second was a more strategic approach that looked at the potential impact of emerging technologies in reducing space needs. Cornell brought in experts to analyze the new technologies. In addition to the potential to reduce space requirements, the issues of implementation costs, copyright implications, and acceptability to users were addressed. The conclusion was that the university should be cautious about relying too soon on the virtual library to reduce space needs. If, however, conventional projections are used throughout the end of the 1990s, emergent technologies may cause the escalating space needs to level after the beginning of the next century.

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