Fitting their Workflows: University of Queensland Library

food

Keith Webster, University Librarian and Director of Learning Services at The University of Queensland, shares this sign and the thinking behind it with TTW readers: (emphasis mine)

During 2008 we conducted a number of studies into the academic lives of students, particularly their interactions with people, place and technologies.  We had students keep log-books whilst they wrote term papers; we invited them to design workshops, and we asked them to record their activities in our libraries on one day during the second semester.  We had thousands of responses!  We also ran LibQUAL+ for the first time.  From all of that data, a number of themes emerged.  One was the time pressure faced by students.  They have competing demands and assessment-focussed lives. They work hard and smart and plan their time effectively.  We recognised that the library needed to fit their workflows rather than have the students fit our rules and regulations.  One grumble was about the need to pack up and leave the library to eat a snack.  We realised that the main objection to eating in the library was around the by-products of hot meals (aromas, spills and left-over packaging).  Cold snacks were generally acceptable, so we decided to allow them to be eaten in the Library.  Our new academic year is about to begin, so we’ll see how it goes.

Thanks Keith! I appreciate the response of the library to the workflows of the student. The user-centered approach and compromise instead of complete food and beverage banning is a breath of fresh air. TTW readers – what are other libraries doing to relax those outdated policies?

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11 thoughts on “Fitting their Workflows: University of Queensland Library”

  1. We’re fortunate in that we have a very small library, so we’ve not felt it necessary to ban anything (because it’s easy to keep an eye on things). For me philosophically, I also feel that if as a staff member it’s good enough for me to eat lunch at my desk, our students should also be able to do likewise. I did my undergrad degree at UQ in the ’90s and the library was brilliant then, so I’m not surprised at how they responded :)

  2. We have a similar policy, but their signage is superior (well, we don’t have any food/drink signs in most of our libraries). I like the positive language and the clear examples.

  3. That may work well for a general library or in academia, but since I work in an archives we don’t allow any food for obvious reasons.

  4. You know of course some student will bring in a cold piece of pizza and say “well, you said cold food was okay.” So do you go by the words or the pictures?

  5. I’d actually let in cold pizza (and would encourage students to bring it!). The general objection here is to the wafting aromas more than the actual food. Of course I was likely the lone dissenting opinion on our policy – I wanted it to be much less restrictive than it ended up being.

  6. A simple “no food, please” policy is relatively easy to explain, and easy to enforce. Food policies that try to limit which kinds of food, or where, or if they are hot or cold, do nothing to protect libraries, or the social conventions that allow them to work. And every library that allows some food, in some locations, makes it more difficult for other libraries to keep it out. Not to mention some of the side effects…anybody seen cockroaches in a library, or mouse droppings? I have.

  7. I have seen mouse droppings – and mice – in libraries – oddly in those where food was banned. The suspicion was that students were eating behind the stacks, leaving crumbs and other remnants which attracted vermin. Our hope here at UQ is that people will feel able to eat in a manner which encourages sensible hygiene. We have installed a fleet of bins designed to hold leftover food and drink in a safe manner. I can feel the requests for a trash can picture coming on!

    I must find out what the ruling on cold pizza is – to me it’s cold food, but I may be more permissive than those who have to manage the new policy.

  8. My local main library is a combined public and state university library. They allow covered drinks on all floors. “Snacks and wrapped foods consumed by an individual” are allowed on the public library floors. No food is allowed on the university floors. Food is allowed in meeting rooms. Food and drink is not allowed at computer terminals.

    http://www.sjlibrary.org/legal/policies.htm?pID=226

    To me ‘cold food’ is a lot easier to define than ‘snacks and wrapped foods’. But I can see how either policy can lead to a lot of questions. Same with the air travel requirements that we not bring liquids on an airplane. What about yogurt, cheese cake, mayonnaise, etc?

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