image 1 The first week in September, I had the opportunity to take clients to Grand Rapids to share Steelcase Education Insights and to focus on the library at Grand Valley State University.

The Mary Idema Pew Library on the Grand Valley State campus is both revolutionary and unlike any other college library I have ever experienced. Grand Valley State University is located in Allendale, Michigan, about 25 minutes west of Grand Rapids where Steelcase is headquartered. Roughly 25,000 students attend GVSU, and it has recently shifted from a more commuter campus to students living on campus in residence halls.

Lee Van Orsdel, Dean of Libraries at GVSU, is really the person who led the charge and made the university see libraries were changing. GVSU realized it needed a space to support its students and the way they learn more effectively.

A big challenge libraries are facing today is they aren’t just a place to come check out books anymore. In fact, most libraries are starting to get rid of large portions of their stacks and GVSU kept only about 20% of their collection with the redesign. This allowed for more space to be designated to interactions with librarians, collaboration with students, and room to study.

One of the core design principles in the library is Active Learning. Active Learning is a reference to several different instruction models that focus the responsibility of learning on the students. To support the Active Learning environment, the library incorporates many different settings for ways to study and for students to work together in groups or individually.

Grand Valley State University worked in close conjunction with Steelcase to study and identify the best applications to apply Active Learning in their space. The results are reading rooms focusing more on being quiet places to study, large tables for group study, small lounge nooks for study, and large open outdoor areas for experiencing the good weather in the Michigan Spring and Summer months. What I found interesting is that GVSU doesn’t mandate that certain areas be quiet space, it just naturally happens. For example, due to the selected furnishings in the reading rooms they tend to be a quiet space.


1-5Mentoring stations are another important thing Dean Van Orsdel wanted to include in the new library space.  Different departments located all over campus can come to one place to mentor students.  The area with the mentoring stations on the ground floor of the library is called the Knowledge Market and has certain hours that it operates with student led mentorship from each department.



Class was not in session the day we visited GVSU, but we saw students in almost every space that we walked through. This was a true testament to how much they love the library and the spaces created for them.

Steelcase put together a great video giving a sort of virtual tour of the space, please watch it to learn more about this great project.

Scott Rice Office Works is excited to announce that we are hosting our 2nd annual Education Symposium on October 23rd at the Sprint Accelerator. Dean Lee Van Orsdel from Grand Valley State will be speaking about how she approached this project. If you are interested in this event and would like more information please click here.


Design Solution Consultant
Design Solution Consultant

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