The Pew Research Center published a study on January 22, 2013 called Library Services in the Digital Age. One section concerned the opinions of library users on multifunctional spaces in libraries. Their findings stated:
A majority (61%) of Americans say that libraries should “definitely” have completely separate locations or spaces for different services, such as children’s services, computer labs, reading spaces, and meeting rooms. Some 27% say libraries should “maybe” do this, and 9% say libraries should “definitely not” do this.
A common sentiment in the focus groups was the need to keep children’s areas, teen hangout spaces, and computer-centric areas separate from the main reading or lounge areas, to keep noise levels and other distractions down to a minimum. Many librarians in our online panel agreed, “When possible I think that it works well to keep the computer, group meeting, and children's area noise away from the quieter reading areas,” one said. “Staff and [patrons] both seem to appreciate this.” Others have seen drastic changes: “We moved our teen library away from our adult patrons and it has made a world of difference. The teens' behavior has gotten so much better we no longer need a security guard at the library.”
Many of the library staff members in our online panel said that their libraries already have separate locations for different services, although those who do not currently offer it were split on whether their library should definitely do this or should only “maybe” do this. Those who said their library was less likely to do this often cited issues of space, or funding; one pointed out that “in small libraries, often operated by a single staff member, separate spaces cannot be for reasons of security or even customer service."
Another section of Library Services in the Digital Age concerned the opinions of library users on comfortable spaces for reading, working, and relaxing at the library. Their findings stated:
More than half (59%) of Americans say that libraries should “definitely” create more comfortable spaces for reading, working, and relaxing at the library. Some 28% say libraries should “maybe” do this, and 9% say libraries should “definitely not” do this...this idea was also more popular with those under age 50 than with older adults.
In our focus groups, we asked participants to think about what their ideal library would look like. Many participants said that while they wanted a quiet space in the library, they wanted one that’s not too quiet. They described having a comfortable place where they could focus and get work done, but also feel like a part of their community; where “even if you’re by yourself, you don’t feel like you’re by yourself,” as one participant put it. Many described a sort of “coffeeshop” feel or “living room atmosphere,” but without feeling like they need to buy anything or leave in a certain amount of time — “a safe and affordable hangout location,” where they could mingle with other people if they wanted to, but can do their own thing if not (one focus group member said a library should be “like home room for your community”).
This idea was very popular with the librarians in our online panel, with most saying either that their library should definitely do this in the future, or that it was already doing this: “Sometimes people just need a place to go to escape from their hectic lives. What if we could melt together Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Redbox, and the gym together? A place where the majority of the population could say they use on a weekly, if not daily, basis.”