Evans Lam Square offers new approach

Evans Lam Square offers new approach

Evans Lam Square offers new approach to library design

Evans Lam Square, a new state-of-the-art learning and research space in Rush Rhees Library, will be dedicated on October 5.

“I always believed that Rush Rhees Library is the heart of my proud alma mater, from both a geographical and a functional perspective,” says Evans Lam ’83, ’84S (MBA) whose gift allowed the construction of the space. “It is the focal point for our students to learn, explore, research, socialize, and showcase their achievements.”

The recently-completed Lam Square in University of Rochester’s Rush Rhees Library is pictured September 26, 2016. / / photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Lam Square is a place for innovative and collaborative programs that will bring the library to the 21st century.

“It will function much like a town square, serving as the central location for library users to get information, do research, collaborate on projects, and explore new technologies,” says Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the River Campus Libraries.

According to Rochelle Mazar, assistant dean of academic engagement, one of the square’s main goals was to offer a new approach to library design. Mazar, who also directed the project, says that traditional library designs create a clear distinction between librarians and library users.

“We all have this image of librarians sitting behind a huge reference desk that separates them from everyone else in the library,” she says. But the square “deliberately breaks this barrier and replaces it with a shared space that allows a more natural and dynamic interaction between librarians and students.”

Instead of one reference desk, for example, the space provides a number of service points where librarians and students can interact with each other more organically.

Student feedback was gathered throughout the design process for Lam Square. (University Photo/J. Adam Fenster)

The square’s design allowed the development of special programs that help redefine the function of the library: the comfortable seating and access to computers allows students to meet with librarians for research consultations; two booths that include benches and tables provide semi-private spaces for small groups to work collaboratively or together independently; a flexible area for “pop up” services, support, workshops, or exhibits based on student needs; the “Tech Sandbar” that encourages students to discover new and cutting-edge technologies they may apply to their coursework.

Student feedback was taken into consideration throughout the design process. Erinmarie Byrne ’17, who served as executive director of academic affairs for the Students’ Association Government, was involved in the process.

“I like to think I helped shape Lam Square with my own personal feedback and by encouraging my peers to share their ideas as well,” she says. “I love the final result of Lam Square! I think it offers everyone a little bit of everything.”

Lam agrees: “The square is simply transformational and gorgeous.” He adds, “students are always grateful for the level of education they receive at the University of Rochester, yet they tend to take our library system for granted. Susanna and I hope that Lam Square will lead to more interest and investment in the modernization of our libraries.”

—Yisrael Levin, October 2016

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