Think of a reference library, and what comes to mind? For most people the term evokes hushed silence, dusty stacks, and above all, orderliness. One thing most of us don’t associate with libraries is cutting-edge design and technology.

When it comes to library design, architects must consider the flow of traffic from reference desks to the stacks, study areas, noise control, appropriate ambient and task lighting, and an overall studious atmosphere. But what is the future of academic design when more and more people head to Google in search of knowledge?

We’ve heard it said that “libraries are dead,” but that’s simply not true. The reality is that reference libraries are simply changing the way they operate. When it comes to true academic research, there’s still nothing like speaking with a reference librarian.

U MASS Dartmouth- Claire T. Carney Library

According to the Feral Librarian, reference librarians at Stanford University answered a total of 20,758 questions in the space of a year, showing that libraries are still busy centers of research and study. However, it is important to note the changes that the internet age has wrought for libraries.


Our recently completed work on the Claire T. Carney Library at UMass Dartmouth illustrates the changes in modern library design. We found that the amount of square footage allocated to books was less than in the past, because instead the library needed computer stations where students could access scholarly journals, databases, and other digital sources.


While internet resources have vastly changed the way we seek information, the need for communal spaces in which to research, study, and access the expertise of research librarians remains.  To learn more about contemporary academic design,  contact Leslie Saul and Associates. Our Boston design firm specializes in academic and institutional architecture and interiors.