Universities are designing informal learning spaces as open, collaborative environments; while there is a need for collaborative spaces, the majority of students in both spaces are working independently. This article compares the usage and design features of informal learning spaces within the main library and union of a “university.” Frequently referred to as the “heart” or “living room,” this architectural study employs mixed-method, explanatory sequential design. Quantitative data was collected through unobtrusive observations and random-sample surveys, followed by qualitative data collection via focus groups. Students visit the library more frequently and stay for longer periods of time than the union. Certain design features found to be more desired than others included standard-height tables and chairs that are comfortable; areas with natural lighting; and large, individual tables to spread out users’ belongings. Overall, it was found that the “heart” and “living room” of campus are serving their intended purposes. It is important for designers to remember that a variety of users have different needs and preferences that are served by a variety of spaces. This study builds on the limited literature regarding informal learning spaces and is the first to compare a university campus’s library to their union. Results will help shape the future of informal learning space design and guide future research in this field.

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