The Essential Library - The Intellectual and Physical Environment




A vibrant library environment emerges from the unity of form and function, from the connections between library spaces and the intellectual activities they inspire and encourage. These connections shape our community's research, teaching, and learning experiences and contribute significantly to the intellectual and physical character of the entire university.

Library space encompasses a variety of environments: technology enabled, collaborative work rooms and spaces for quiet study; book stacks, reading rooms, and stations for studying music, film, and multimedia; work areas for faculty and staff; and social spaces where members of our community experience transformative interactions with diverse people and ideas they otherwise would not encounter. Our spaces also include virtual library destinations where our users discover digital collections, find help searching authoritative sources in their fields, and access library materials from anywhere in the world their studies and research take them.

Such a list can provide only a snapshot, as library space—and our thinking about its role in the scholarly life of USC—must adapt to meet the needs, expectations, and locations of our users. An undergraduate studying in the Eileen and Kenneth T. Norris Medical Libraryexperiences the library much differently than a distance learner in Orange County, whose experience is distinct from that of a graduate student conducting research online from rural India. The library thrives in the physical heart of campus as much as it does in the hands of a student reading an electronic book on her mobile phone.

Even as the nature of library space changes over time and with the shifting perspectives of our users, the foundational qualities of the experience we seek to provide remain constant. When USC students, faculty, and staff enter the physical or virtual space of our libraries, they must feel comfortable, secure, and confident in our capacity to support their research. We must instill a sense of excitement at the prospect of discovery and inspire them to explore the breadth and depth of resources that the libraries provide.

When we are successful, our users find the means to consider their discoveries critically and from multiple points of view. They find the tools to mine the knowledge of the past in order to deepen their perspectives on the present. They find encouragement to create new knowledge through interpretation and reinterpretation, through revising old assumptions and remixing data to arrive at new insights. The physical and intellectual aspects of the library converge in a dynamic environment of ideas, and we enrich our users' perceptions of what they can accomplish through active engagement with our libraries.


  1. Determine the level of resources necessary to support digitization, technical services, and special collections activities.
  2. Identify and review selected library facilities and develop proposals for improving the use of space to serve our community more effectively.
  3. Evaluate and increase—where appropriate—responsibility for training, hiring, and budgeting at the unit level.
  4. Improve customer-service training for student workers.
  5. Improve internal communication in the USC Libraries and encourage interdepartmental knowledge exchange.