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Sense of 
 Space and 

Libraries champion the spirit of community with the help of learning centre space.

Kaisa Sinikara
Chief Librarian, Professor
Helsinki University Library

Kaisa Sinikara
ince 1990’s Finnish university libraries have applied the learning centre approach to restructuring library space. Learning centres have been designed to support learners and their different needs in their learning processes. Especially students are using university libraries as working and social space as the meaning of online information in services for research becomes increasingly important.

Collaboration is the key
There have been many experiments in learning centre structure. In some universities ICT services, library and educational technology operate in a common umbrella organisation. Another model is to gather services of different operators in joint virtual and physical environments without changing the organisation. For example in Helsinki University, the library and work space services, classrooms, help desk and support as well as learning technology services of the Arts and Social Sciences campus have been combined together in one single city block. In addition, library and ICT Department are together responsible for information and communications technology education.

Focus on learners
The ever evolving needs of learners and their learning processes guide the designing of space. Students’ thoughts, ideas and needs for new services have now more room in online communities and service design development projects. With the help of feedback improvement is continuous. Library does not only provide space and data collections but supports learning by education, guidance, and interaction online and face to face.

Boosting sense of community
Universities are competitive organisations where complex expectations for success affect every-day work and learning. University faculties and departments all have their own territory of expertise. Library can give a shared and a private experience at the same time. The openness of Finnish libraries generates sense of community. Library is there for its users. That is why the goal of libraries is to help learners and researchers to succeed in their work. Library seeks to develop new services together with users because collaboration produces innovative solutions and more communality.

New space solutions strengthen this sense of community. Library users need different spaces: for quiet and noisy work, for private time and for interaction, and for using digital and printed material. Library is also a space for experiences and aesthetics, which at its best advocates a spirit of creativity and enjoyment and helps library users to feel like home.

Have a peek in Kaisa House!