University of Limerick
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Making every seat count: space management at peak times in a university library

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-01-18, 14:31 authored by Michelle BreenMichelle Breen, MARY DUNDONMARY DUNDON, CIARA MC CAFFREYCIARA MC CAFFREY
This study explores the library equivalent of the towels on deck chairs phenomenon of students reserving library seats: the practice of leaving personal belongings unattended at a library study space for long periods of time, rendering the desk unavailable for use by others. It presents highly inefficient use of high value academic library space. This study measured the impact and effectiveness of a desk clearing intervention put in place to alleviate the space constraints caused by the practice. The components of this single site study were focus groups that explored student attitudes and motivations toward desk reserving, a survey to assess user perceptions of the intervention and analysis of access gate data to identify behavioral changes following the intervention. Findings suggest that the phenomenon is a normal part of the student culture in the University library where this study is based. In addition to space constraints during busy periods, the sense of community and the trust and peer support that users feel in the library appear to be contributory factors in desk reserving. The desk clearing initiative was introduced in response to user feedback, to maximize the availability of seats for the benefit of all users. It was successful in reducing the practice of seat reserving. Its impact was most noticeable in the early morning, where the practice of reserving seats for use later in the day disappeared. The initiative was welcomed by library users. The “Every Seat Counts” campaign is now a regular part of the end of each semester in the University of Limerick.



New Review of Academic Librarianship;24 (1), pp. 105-118


Taylor and Francis




This is an Author's Manuscript of "Making every seat count: space management at peak times in a university library" whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in New Review of Academic Librarianship 2018 copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:



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