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Student Project: Redesign Leeds Library

As part of a recent winter session class, PCD students came up with ideas to redesign Leeds Library. The idea for the class arose from a practical need to rethink the library's functionality in a time when technology is changing the way people research and study.

Art teacher and department chair Michele Mennucci taught the class and is a member of the Library Committee. She wanted PCD students involved with the redesign since "they have good ideas and they're the people who use the space." Mennucci also invited Boston-based architect Denise Dea (Parent, Alison '19 and Clemente '22) to visit with the class and give students a glimpse of real life applications for architectural design.

Working in pairs, students made sketches and constructed architectural models of their ideas. Many agreed that a separation of quiet study and social space was a top priority, and came up with plans to divide the library using a glass partition.

Reviewing the book collection is an important first step as well, due to the outdated information books may contain. The evolving role of books is a significant consideration in any library redesign, Mennucci said, and mentioned the contrasting approaches of the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University libraries.

"RISD design libraries are still full of books, but the science library at Brown has no books because they become out of date so quickly. It depends on the needs of the community that's going to be using the space."

While PCD students opted for keeping books, they would like to move them to lower bookcases around the perimeter of the library to open up additional study space. They also made plans for a computer bank and reference desk, and even designed a loft accessible by a spiral staircase.

Mennucci will now return to PCD's Library Committee to present the student ideas, and delineate a decision-making process to review the many suggestions. Carrying out the students' designs will likely be a process of writing grants and making changes one step at a time. As Mennucci said, "It's definitely a transition. Everyone wants to get it right."

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