Until recently, the Elizabethtown College library was usually vacant of any activity--just how I liked it. I could wander the stacks in silence, pondering and reading whatever random works caught my fancy. I had been making this practice a regular habit for years, even before I became a formal student at the college.
Now, the library is full of students who sit in the chairs, scribble in their notebooks, and type on their computers. The same has happened with the main concourse student area, the Brossman Commons.
When I joined Elizabethtown college, a laptop was still somewhat unusual among students. I would connect mine to one of the ubiquitous network ports and try to ignore the ogling people. Now, it's just another machine.
Wireless Internet. This year, the college installed WIFI hotspots in the Brossman Commons and library. Both areas now see much more traffic; more homework is also done in these areas.
I don't think that wireless has encouraged more study. Rather, I think it has allowed people to roam more while remaining connected to the 'net, and by implication, their friends. For this reason, quiet places can now be more difficult to find.
WIFI has allowed the library and the Brossman Commons to fill the purpose planned by their designers. Both were clearly designed to be places of convergence, where people could meet and exchange ideas. In the past few months, these spaces seem to have reached that potential. It's amazing how such an un-physical thing can so deeply interact with a space and the people that use it.
Do architects think of these things? Sure they do, but do they really think about these things? When designing a multi-million dollar structure, it seems only reasonable to hire a sociologist or two to provide helpful advice.
You can only plan for technology so far. The library fails in one point. Its tables are perfectly designed for the technology of the time it was built -- the late 80s. They could hardly foresee the impact of portable computing. So they did what seemed best: They designed desks and chairs which were perfectly ergonomic for paper technology.
These same tables and chairs are a primary cause behind my Repetetive Stress Injury; They're terrible for people who need to type.
Such is the flow of life, I suppose. We do our best to plan, but we can't predict everything perfectly.