Page 60 - Winter 2020
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 Figure 2. Photograph of main circulation desk, reading room, and stacks in a twentieth-century library, the Architecture and Fine Arts Library, University of Florida, Gainesville (Kemp Bunch Jackson, Architects, and Rudolph Weaver Campus, Architect).
buildings. Lower ceiling heights with sound-absorbent ceilings were often used in stack, catalog, and reading rooms. These design features resulted in a more subdued soundscape, thereby reducing reverberant and reflected sounds propagating across the room when people spoke, moved, or dropped their books.
board, a sound-reflective material. When these high, angled ceilings were used in the main space over the circulation desk, for example, reflections off the angled ceiling surfaces propagated sounds into other areas of the library similar to the way that sounds from a stage in a performance hall or theater are reflected toward the rear of the audience seating area. This meant that sounds made in the part of the room under or near the angled ceiling would be reflected toward other parts of the library, possibly disturbing others using the space and causing excessive loudness.
Early Twenty-First-Century Libraries
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, architects began to use the shapes, volumes, and materials of the nineteenth-century library and put twenty-first-century functions and equipment into it, with new acoustical issues arising as a result. The use of a high, sound- reflective ceiling over collaborative work areas reflected sounds from one part of the large, open rooms to other parts of the rooms, meaning that one group of people could dominate the soundscape of a large area of the library, affecting other users who may not want to be participants in their soundscape.
Technology such as copy machines introduced a Accordingly, acoustical improvements in soundscape
new mechanical sound in libraries. Sounds from other technical systems including microfiche, change machines, photographic stands, drinking fountains, air- conditioning systems, and public address systems, were added to the soundscape of the library as modernization occurred. Sometimes these machines were placed in separate rooms to limit the noise propagated into the main spaces and to control their use.
Other technical developments included the addition of sonic media such as audio books, CDs, and later DVDs to the collections. These media required audio and later video playback for people to listen and view the media. Sometimes this was done with people using headphones. Sometimes there were separate rooms where one or more persons could sit and listen to audio material or view and listen to video materials.
Late Twentieth-Century Libraries
In the later part of the twentieth century, architects began to raise the ceiling heights in libraries, often using angled rather than vaulted shapes made of gypsum
design and analysis were needed to accommodate the new and evolving functions of the twenty-first-century library. Architects were designing large open-plan spaces that often had exposed structure and sound-reflective materials. Designers felt that the industrial aesthetic expressed a minimalist approach to design and a material functionality that was sustainable in some ways. There was little or no acoustical treatment in the spaces. Sonic niches were often not provided for special acoustical activities because it was thought the activities should be visually present in the main volume of the space to encourage participation. Hands-on activity areas were included for children where verbal and creative expressions were encouraged with little or no acoustical separation from other activities in the building. The acoustical horizon of the sounds from the children’s activities would propagate through large portions of the space. Large numbers of computer workstations with Internet access were often included for individual or small-group use as research stations, card catalogue access, and reading media, some with audio capabilities in the main space of the library (Figure 3).
60 Acoustics Today • Winter 2020

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