ABC University Library at the Dublin Business School has been charged with providing a capacity and demand report in anticipation of the university's long-range capital expenditures budget development activities, as part of the institution's strategic planning process. Further, the strategic goals of the university include improving customer satisfaction and advocacy in order to attract more desirable student applicants and to expand the number of new students the university is able to accommodate. Since it first opened 10 years ago, the ABC Library has not conducted a study of capacity and demand. Library staff are concerned that the university's perception of library usage is unfavorably skewed. Accordingly, library staff will commence a formal study to develop a capacity planning and control strategy to present to the capital budget finance committee. The library staff is particularly focused on understanding the dynamics and parameters of study space, as they have heard occasional complaints from students about a lack of space for individual study and study group meetings.
Identify: Alternative Capacity Plans
The purpose of the study is to discuss capacity and demand reconciliation strategies and to recommend an approach to manage any capacity constraints within the Readers Services area which is caused by fluctuation in users' space demands against the physical space constraints.
Capacity and demand information. The Readers Services function of the ABC Library is operating at maximum processing capacity with regard to available study space. This conclusion is based on observations of library usage and interviews with library staff. The interview was conducted with library staff in an effort to estimate the demand fluctuations experienced by library and to identify periods of peak usage. The library operates at near capacity throughout the school year, but during exam periods, the volume of students accessing the library peaks to the degree that students become of aware of the crowded conditions and of the inability of library staff to meet their reference, inquiry, and support needs. Further, student satisfaction surveys conducted annually by the library indicate that a high percentage of students are dissatisfied with the space availability during high-volume periods, such as the start of terms and exam times. The standard operating procedures for staff in response to reports of crowding or requests for assistance from students have been characterized by a management by anecdote system that is reactive in nature. To date, no systematic analyses or remedies have been tried by library staff. Tactical strategies have included liaising with administrators regarding classroom usage timetables to determine when and where classrooms could be used as overflow study space. This strategy has been deeply relied upon during high peak periods and university administrators have begun to see it as an issue, and as a signal that the capacity -- demand tensions need to be comprehensively addressed. Students have been, on a case-by-case basis, appeased and relatively satisfied with the overflow arrangements. However, there is an undercurrent that things are not as they should be, and that tuition should buy more convenience and access to reference materials than moving to off-library space can provide.
Capacity data. Three libraries are located at the Dublin Business School: ABC, Aungier Street, and Dame Street. Aungier Street library has 187 seats and Dame Street has 120 seats. The ABC Library can seat 307 students arranged in single rows of double sized study table capable of seating 6 students at any one time. Students can access any library on campus, regardless of major or program of study. At any given time, ABC Library functions at or near capacity; however, the Aungier Street and Dame Street libraries do not have this effective capacity issue.
Similar capacity -- demand studies in the literature to what have been carried out at ABC Library indicate that common usage preferences by students prevail. For example, students invariably prefer to study at tables over study carrels, and students exhibit a strong preference for tables, and even carrels, that are proximate to electrical and Internet connection sockets. As an extension, study and meeting rooms that contain electrical and Internet access are highly preferred over study and meeting rooms that do not offer this access. Where electronic access is not an issue, students prefer large tables over small study carrels, and prefer tables located near windows with natural light and pleasant views to tables that face walls.
Peak study times over the course of a school week occur in the evenings. The days with the highest usage demand for study space are, in order of highest to lowest demand volume, are as follows: Monday, Sunday (especially in the evening), Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday, Saturday (especially in the afternoon), and Friday. Several years ago, the campus libraries were closed on Sunday evenings, but feedback from students indicated a high demand and the libraries subsequently extended their hours to 11:00 P.M. On Sunday nights.
There is very little to no uncertainty risk with regard to the demand for study space. The patterns of use and demand are predictable. Because of this, the ABC Library is changing its approach to dealing with the capacity -- demand mismatch. Instead of trying to absorb the demand, which resulted in some very dissatisfied students and frustrated research librarians, the library will implement a chase demand strategy.
A chase demand strategy will permit the university to dope with demand by maximizing capacity when the demand is high and minimizing capacity when the demand is low. Since capacity for the on-campus libraries is tied to physical space, it is difficult for adjustments to be made without expanding into different spaces and reconfiguring the usage of spaces. Invariably, since the provision of library services must also include property oversight, access to reference librarians, and adjustments to the supply of facility usage of electricity and other utilities, additional costs are anticipated. As demand is addressed, however, patterns of access and service provision may diminish where demand is low to offset increases in access and service provision where demand is high. Although the aggregate changes may not cancel each other out, a comprehensive analysis of demand and capacity must include increases and decreases in services and resources.
Choose: Most Appropriate Capacity Plan
Management strategies. The customary approaches for addressing capacity -- demand issues are strategies that emphasize the level of capacity, strategies that chase the demand, and strategies that change the pattern of demand. Capacity -- demand management strategies are proposed in this paper for short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions to address user demand for study space.
Short-term strategy. The short-term strategies employed include the following:
1. Enhanced access to electrical and Internet connections across campus.
2. Enhanced access to electrical and Internet connections within the ABC Library.
3. Enforced occupancy standards for private study and meeting rooms.
It is apparent from the student surveys and from the empirical observations of library usage that many -- if not most -- students do not use the library as a study space because of the availability and proximity of reference material. In fact, the primary appeal of the library for study is based on the following: Internet and electrical connections for laptops, ample tabletop space to spread out materials, a quiet environment, and a predictably consistent environment, characterized by an absence of nuisances found in, say, a student activity hub or a coffee house. These attributes include radical temperature changes from doors opening and closing continuously, overactive or inadequate air conditioning, music over played on integral sound systems, intrusively loud conversations or food processing equipment noises. Architects and planners speak about place. A familiar use of the term is Starbucks' references to their stores as The Third Place for their customers: Home, work, the third place. And "Library as Place' is an important aspect of the new service/space paradigm. In relation to Library Space Planning, people want space to interact with the library material and they need additional types of working environments to do it in" (Howard 2009:1). Library as place has technological implications also. In the words of Cohen (2011: 1)
In the future, we will see more spaces that provide plug-play technology. We will see libraries with more seats and less collection shelving. The library will strive to be a social space in this new environment. This will increase access to library content and generate communities of practice. Libraries will need space to integrated information literacy programs and offer scholarly aggregation tools.
The key variable in a short-term strategy is access to electrical and Internet connections. The primary strategy for increasing access to Internet connections is to install wireless modems throughout the libraries. The cost to provide wireless connections for student laptops is no longer prohibitive; inexpensive wireless terminals can be plugged directly into electrical receptacles to boost a wireless signal coming from a remotely located modem elsewhere in the library. This type of system is widely used in European countries where multi-story residences are constructed primarily of brick, concrete, and stucco which present transmission obstacles to…