Resources for Designing Library Electronic Classrooms 

 by Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe  
  MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship, v 6#1 , Spring 1998 

The more electronic resources libraries acquire and make available to users, the greater the demand for instruction in how to access and use those resources effectively and efficiently. As library instruction programs adapt to meet the demand, a need arises to create a space in the library specifically designed for instructional purposes and hands-on learning. The need for such a space is especially apparent if the library is responsible for Internet training or is canceling print resources in order to fund electronic ones. Librarians are often called upon to assist in planning such electronic classrooms. 

Electronic classrooms are also called computer classrooms, media-equipped classrooms, or media laboratories, and can refer to any number of classroom configurations. Regardless of name or configuration, these spaces are complex environments. The needs of library instructors, students, computer technology, computer technicians and the electronic resources themselves must all be taken into account as the spaces are planned and built. 

The librarian planning an electronic classroom or communicating the needs of the library instruction program to architects and administrators must develop an understanding of general design issues and their implications for teaching and learning. The challenge of classroom design is not only in identifying what is best but also what is the best design within given constraints (e.g. budget limitations, remodeling difficulties, and time limitations). The following annotated bibliography identifies resources for librarians who are designing instructional classrooms. The starred works are especially recommended. 


  • ** Allen, R.L., Bowen, J.T., Clabaugh, S, DeWitt, B. B., Francis, J., Kerstetter, J.P., and Reick, D.A. 1996. Classroom design manual (3rd Edition). College Park, MD: Academic Information Technology Services, University of Maryland. 

  • Growing out of a shared need for guidelines to use when improving higher education instructional facilities, this multi-authored document is based on the premise that "students have a fundamental right to a classroom learning environment that allows them to see anything presented visually, to hear any audible presentation free from noises and distortions, and to be physically comfortable" (p. 1). The manual defines and describes general purpose classrooms, lecture halls, seminar rooms and specialized classrooms (including computer classrooms). Particular design characteristics are discussed for each type of room. Practical in orientation, the handbook contains very detailed and specific recommendations easily accessed through the well-organized table of contents. Sections on planning, facility design elements, technology considerations, accessibility issues, and classroom management are included as are a number of appendices listing references and professional organizations. A must-read for all library classroom designers. If only one general work is consulted, this should be it. 

  • Blackett, A. and Stanfield, B. 1994. A planner's guide to tomorrow's classrooms. Planning for Higher Education. 22(3): 25-31. 

  • Reflecting on current and expected changes in pedagogy and technology, Blackett and Stanfield advocate remembering three principles for general classroom planning: (1) plan for the full range of teaching methods, (2) plan for change and flexibility, and (3) focus on the exchange of ideas and acquisition of knowledge. Examines the classroom design needs of various teaching methods including lecture, discussion, audio-visual delivery of lecture, computer-based group instruction and self-paced learning. Discusses the design of large lecture halls, tiered classrooms and camera-equipped classroom suites. Does not provide specific guidelines; however, the discussion of the three principles is valuable. 

  • Clabaugh, S. 1992. Classroom design: upgrading aging classrooms and building new ones right. Ohio Media Spectrum. 44(3): 46-49. 

  • Arguing that educational facilities are not hospitable to changing instructional needs, Clabaugh gives examples of poor classroom design and furnishings. Institutions need to develop design guidelines that address issues affecting instructional space, as well as furnishings and equipment, to guide both renovations and new construction. The author makes recommendations for ensuring proper implementation of design guidelines. The recommended process will prove useful for library classroom planners. 

  • Conway, K., Epstein, S.L., Griffin, S., Luttell, D.R., and Wilson, J. (Panelists). 1994. Classroom design with technology in mind [Satellite Broadcast, Videocassette Recording]. Raleigh, NC: Institute for Academic Technology. [Information available online at

  • Beginning with the concept of the classroom as an "information environment," Conway identifies current educational trends and paradigm changes, including the view of students as producers of information rather than solely as receivers, the changes in the way technology is used, and the growing emphasis on team work. Griffin details a variety of media equipment issues followed by an overview of networking issues by Luttell. After an explanation of an interactive classroom student response system by Epstein, Conway describes the Master Classrooms at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A question and answer period completes the broadcast. Supplemental reading packets include a number of publications including "Master Classrooms: Classroom Design With Technology in Mind" by Conway (updated online at and "Computer Classroom and Laboratory Design: Bibliography" by Carolyn Kotlas (updated online at as well as lists of equipment vendors. An excellent source for designers who want to receive information in a medium other than print; however, the broadcast is not comprehensive in issue coverage so it should only be used in combination with other sources. 

  • Designing a computer classroom: getting started. 1992. Research Triangle Park, NC: Institute for Academic Technology. 

  • Operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Institute for Academic Technology (IAT) is funded by IBM to "develop and share ways to use technology to enrich higher education" (p. 1). Written to describe how other institutions of higher education can design spaces similar to the IAT Computer Classroom, the document presents a succinct overview of IAT facilities, focusing on the 670 square foot computer classroom, providing an inventory of equipment and a diagram of the room layout. Considerations for computer classroom design are discussed including hardware, wiring, floors, lighting, windows, room traffic and security. As a basic primer, this document is very easy to read; however, the recommendations are somewhat over-simplified. A good beginning source for becoming familiar with basic design issues . 

  • Dickens, J.L. and Tanza, D.J. 1996. Classroom guidelines for the design and construction of classrooms at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz: University of California, Santa Cruz. 

  • These guidelines for building new or remodeling existing classrooms are based on the classroom design goal of delivering "information from instructor to student and from student to instructor in the most efficient, effective, and simple manner" (p. iii). Discusses general classroom characteristics and then presents guidelines for classroom surfaces and finishes, fixtures and furniture, mechanical and electrical systems, audio-visual systems, projection booths, media equipment packages, the faculty workstation podium, cabling and wiring, and accessibility. Appendices include a "Designer Checklist for Classrooms" which could be easily adapted for library electronic classrooms as well as classroom and equipment diagrams and standard specifications. Reprints "Design criteria for effective classrooms" by W. Brase (Planning for Higher Education. 1988-1989. 17(1): 81-91) which had previously articulated many of the design guidelines. 

  • Hart, I. 1996. Building the perfect classroom, or the labors of Sisyphus. College and University Media Review. 2(2): 11-21. 

  • Describes a survey of University of Hong Kong faculty members which investigated preferences for classroom features. Results indicated that little agreement exists as to the "perfect" classroom. Presents design requirements that were decided upon and discusses problems with implementation. Useful for librarians designing classrooms that will be used by multiple instructors. 

  • How to design training rooms. 1989. (INFO-LINE Series No. 8912). Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development. 

  • The design of the training environment should be determined by the purpose of the training which will take place in it. Discusses shape, size, lighting, heating and air conditioning, walls, and furniture as well as auditorium, classroom, "U" shape, conference, and round table seating styles. Sidebars include "Seven Common Errors in Facilities Design," "Color Codes" and "Computer Training Tips." A good summary of a wide variety of issues. 

  • ** Knirk, F.G. 1987. Instructional facilities for the information age. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources. (ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED 296 734) 

  • In order to inform educators so that they in turn can communicate effectively with architects and school administrators about necessary educational facilities design requirements, Knirk summarizes the research on six design issues relating to the optimization of a technology-rich teaching/learning environment: (1) light and color, (2) heating, ventilation and air conditioning, (3) acoustical and background noise, (4) furniture and ergonomics, (5) electrical wiring and conduit requirements, and (6) computer requirements. Additional sections discuss grouped and individualized learning environments and audiovisual media. Many specific measurements and recommendations are given, including viewing angles, light levels, workstation requirements and classroom space configurations. Although the focus is on elementary and secondary educational buildings, the majority of the content is applicable to higher education settings as well. 

  • Presenters University Courses.

    Presenters University is a resource center sponsored by Proxima that provides practical information for developing and presenting effective multimedia presentations. Free online training includes "The Presentation Environment" and "Presentation Environment Rules of Thumb" -- both of which include guidelines for creating effective multimedia instructional spaces. Calculation formulas for viewing angle and distance, image and screen size, and lighting are given. 

  • Stewart, G.K. 1993. Avoiding negative physical environment impact from budget limitations. Educational Facility Planner. 31(3): 19-21. 
    Budget limitations can restrict the implementation of construction plans. The author suggests a process for working to minimize the negative impact of budget limitations. Discusses the implications of deferring equipment purchases, compromising the acoustical-visual-thermal environment, recycling furniture, and reducing the total amount of space. Though written for K-12 planners, provides useful information for anyone needing to resist budget cuts or to justify expenses. 

  • ** Terlaga, K.L. 1990. Training room solutions: a guide to planning the learning environment. Trumbull, CT: Howe Furniture Corporation. 

  • A comprehensive and practical guide for designing and developing training rooms. Recommends developing a planning team and describes the general planning process, including needs and resources assessments. Discusses 15 training room arrangements, furniture, audio-visual capabilities, computer-based training, lighting, mechanical and electrical systems, and architectural and interior design. The final chapter presents an analysis of training room elements checklist which is easily adaptable to library electronic classrooms. Sections on room arrangements and furniture are particularly recommended. 

  • Wilson, D.L. 1993. Universities wrestle with the design of tomorrow's high-tech classroom. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 39(28): A19-A20. 

  • Reports the thoughts and projects of higher education professionals exploring the issue of high-tech classrooms and describes the current state of uncertainty and ambiguity that exists with respect to classroom design. Identifies difficulties and frustrations as well as possible classroom design solutions. Though a bit dated, the quandaries identified are still current. Library classroom designers will find a contemporary context within all of higher education for the library trend of constructing electronic classrooms. 

  • WorkSpace Resources.

    The WorkSpace Resources website aims to be "a comprehensive resource index of commercial and institutional furniture and accessory resources" and indeed the resources provided by and linked from the website are impressive. Includes information on vendors and consultants, furniture, ergonomics, and space planning for business, industry and education. The Computer Classroom Design FAQ 
    ( and the resources listed under The Learning Environment ( are particularly recommended for library electronic classroom designers. 


  • Adams, L. 1995. Designing the electronic classroom. In D. Barclay (Ed.), Teaching electronic information literacy: a how-to-do-it manual (pp. 147-162). New York: Neal-Schuman. 

  • Presents a rationale for building electronic classrooms and recommends beginning the design process by assessing instructional needs and considering building codes and standards. Discusses furniture, white board and projection screens, lighting, walls, acoustics, and electronic equipment. Software, security, expenses, and management are also considered. Similar information to that in the general design guidebooks but placed in a library context. Essentially the same information is presented in: Adams, L.L. 1995. Designing the electronic classroom. (ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED 296 734) 

  • Bazillian, R.J. and Braun, C. 1995. Academic libraries as high-tech gateways: a guide to design and space decisions. Chicago: American Library Association. 

  • A general guide to planning library spaces that considers traditional library services and resources as well as current and future technologies. One chapter focuses on the library as a teaching space and includes photographs and diagrams of library classrooms. Integrates design suggestions with recommendations for teaching electronic research skills. Particularly useful for librarians designing classrooms for new library buildings. 

  • Farber, E.I. 1984. BI and library instruction: some observations. Reference Librarian. 10: 5-13. 

  • Contending that "there has been no attention by designers or building consultants to either the impact of a building on a BI program or the impact of a BI program on the design of a building" (p. 5), Farber identifies three potential instructional areas within a library building: the classroom, the reference area, and the reference desk, and provides suggestions for building design and equipment for each area. Mentions the necessity of having additional work space for the day to day operations of an instruction program and speculates about the impact of new technologies. Although the article is somewhat dated and seems to assume a lecture/demonstration model of instruction instead of a hands-on approach, the emphasis on flexibility given the uncertainties of the future is still good advice. Provides a historical contextual view of the design of bibliographic instruction facilities. 

  • Feinmann, V.J. 1994. Library instruction: what is our classroom? Computers in Libraries. 14(2): 33-36. 

  • Reflections on providing library instruction in the reference area and in a library classroom. Discusses the location of library classrooms, characteristics of classroom space, equipment, and the advantages and disadvantages of sharing classroom space with other campus units. Recommends teaching activities for the library computer classroom as well as strategies for dealing with technical problems. Though Feinmann does not give specific design recommendations her reflections as a practicing instruction librarian are valuable. 

  • ** LaGuardia, C., Blake, M., Farwell, L., Kent, C. and Tallent, E. 1996. Classrooms in the library: electronic and otherwise. In: Teaching the new library: a how-to-do-it manual for planning and designing instructional programs (pp. 113-129). New York: Neal-Schuman 

  • Begins with the observation that the new library, as a more technological library, necessitates a library classroom for teaching. Discusses the learning climate and describes three types of teaching rooms: lecture rooms, computer laboratories and electronic classrooms. The authors recommend a classroom needs assessment including consideration of how much technology is necessary. They raise equipment considerations including projection options, screens, white boards, instructor and student workstations, and furniture. The article discusses design issues including electrical outlets, network connections, cables, lighting, temperature, number of workstations, and additional seating. Concludes with a comment on funding. Provides two diagrams of electronic library classrooms. Considers many general design issues within a library-specific context. 

  • McDermott, I.E. 1998. Solitaire confinement: the impact of the physical environment on computer training. Computers in Libraries. 18(1): 22-27. [Also available online at

  • Asserts that adults who play Solitaire during computer training may be responding to a physical environment that is not conducive to learning. Discusses examples to show how poor design and room arrangement can impede successful training. Describes possible remedies for design problems including changing the furniture, controlling monitor displays, and redesigning the room. Provides contact information for furniture and monitor control software vendors. Useful for librarians wanting to find monitor control software. 

  • ** Ring, D.M. and Vander Meer, P.F. 1994. Designing a computerized instructional training room for the library. Special Libraries. 85(3): 154-161. 

  • Discusses the increasing demand for library instruction in using electronic resources and the desirability of providing hands-on learning for students. Recommends beginning the design process by determining instructional goals and objectives and selecting teaching methods that will be used in the classroom. Discusses room arrangement, color, lighting, climate, wiring, acoustics, furniture, software and hardware, accessibility, and storage and security. An excellent summary of design recommendations for library classrooms with a useful list of items for further reading. 

  • Wright, C. and Friend, L. 1992. Ergonomics for online searching. Online. 16(3): 13-15, 17-20, 22-27. 

  • Defining ergonomics as "the scientific, interdisciplinary study of individuals and their physical relationship to the work environment" (p. 13), Wright and Friend identify potential obstacles to the creation of ergonomically correct workstations. Detailed suggestions are given on a number of topics including visual factors (task lighting, light levels, and screen glare), acoustical factors, radiation and visual display terminals, screen flicker, screen image characteristics, hardware and equipment, workstation configuration (work surface, leg space, and monitor), chairs, and keyboards. Concludes with summary suggestions for creating an ergonomic workstation environment, emphasizing flexible and quality furnishings. Includes two sidebars - "How to Recognize a Good Chair" and "Common Sense Health Tips for VDT Users" - and a line figure of an ergonomically correct workstation, as well as a list of organizations and institutes that will provide additional information about ergonomic issues. Although the focus is on staff workstations, this comprehensive overview of ergonomic principles and measurements is equally applicable to classroom workstations. Highly recommended for those designing with attention to ergonomics. 


  • Butler, H.J. 1993. Library instruction in an electronic classroom. In: L. Shirato (Ed.), What is good instruction now? Library instruction for the 90s (pp. 123-126). Ann Arbor, MI: Pierian Press. 

  • A poster session from the 1992 LOEX Conference, Butler's description of the electronic classroom at the Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, is one of the earliest published descriptions of a computer classroom in a library. Describes how the room is used and the various roles of students, librarians and proctors during instruction. Includes a list of equipment as well as vendor contact information. A room configuration diagram is not provided. 

  • Glogoff, S. 1995. Library instruction in the electronic library: the University of Arizona's electronic library education centers. Reference Services Review. 23(2): 7-12, 39. 

  • Recognizing the need for students to have hands-on learning experiences with electronic resources, University of Arizona librarians developed two Electronic Library Education Centers (ELECs). Glogoff describes the equipment and network configurations of the ELECs, discusses ways to maximize the utility of the ELECs, and shares observations about how the spaces are used. Includes initial budget information for both the Mac and PC ELEC as well as estimates of ongoing expenses. Supplemented by a sidebar by A.J. Basile which lists additional resources for planning electronic classrooms. A room configuration diagram is not provided. 

  • Vasi, J. and LaGuardia, C. 1994. Creating a library electronic classroom. Online. 18(5): 75-84. 

  • When the Electronic Information Arcade was created in the University of California Library, Santa Barbara, an electronic classroom for teaching electronic resources became necessary. The classroom was designed to provide hands-on experience, provide access to current and future electronic resources, and minimize the role of the technology itself. Describes the room layout, furniture, cabling, and projection system. Discusses the different uses of the classroom and then reflects on lessons learned about the value of team teaching and the problems with computer connectivity, daily maintenance, and noise. Vasi and LaGuardia present a table of major classroom costs and include photographs of the classroom. Similar information is presented in: LaGuardia, C. and Bentley, S. 1994. "We teach the networks electric: the networked library classroom." In 15th National Online Meeting proceedings -- 1994: New York, May 10-12, 1994 (pp. 319-327). Medford, NJ: Learned Information. 

  • Pask, J.M. 1995. Purdue University Libraries electronic classroom. Poster session. ACRL 1995 National Conference. 

  • An overview of the Purdue University Libraries electronic classroom. Includes costs associated with the workstations and room preparation, contact information for vendors, descriptions of computer equipment and software, and reflections on classroom use. Particularly nice is a diagram of the classroom layout and a link to "Guidelines." 

  • Wittkopf, B. 1995. Planning an electronic classroom. Research Strategies. 13(2): 66-68. 

  • This editorial describes the Louisiana State University Library approach to designing their electronic classrooms. Includes considerations of instructor and student workstations, computer operating systems, projection systems, lighting, cabling, and funding the project budget. A website describing the classrooms, including a map and policies and procedures, is available at 

    Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe is Library Instruction Coordinator at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois.  

    Copyright 1998 Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe. All rights reserved. Commercial use requires permission of the author and the editor of this journal.  

    The author and editors do not maintain links to World Wide Web resources.  

       ISSN 1069-6792
      Lori Widzinski, Editor (
      Revised: 07/23/98