Perceptions of the D. H. Hill Library Renovation + Tiny Café

In September 2019, we asked students how much they knew about the ongoing renovation of the D. H. Hill Jr. Library. Most knew the entrance to the Hill Library had changed and that there is a renovation going on. They found the signs pointing them to the new entrance useful. Most did not know any further details about the renovation.


On September 5, 2019, we asked 27 participants a series of questions to find out how much they knew about the ongoing renovation of the D. H. Hill Jr. Library. We used the Tiny Café method in the Park Shops building on North Campus. Most of the participants knew the entrance to the Hill Library had changed and that there is a renovation going on. Most found the signs pointing them to the new entrance useful. Most did not know any further details about the renovation; a few did.

What we found

Large easel sign set up on a brick walkway. It displays text saying, "The Brickyard entrance to the Library is closed," and includes a map.
When prompted, many students remembered seeing the easel signs placed on walkways in and near the Brickyard. These signs included maps with directions to the new front door of the Hill Library.

Of the 27 participants (who broadly represented the university population; read details below in “How we did it”) all but four had visited Hill Library in Fall 2019. 

Twenty-one of the 23 that had visited, and two that just walked by, saw one or more of the signs outside the library directing people to the new entrance on Hillsborough Street. Most said the signs were helpful. Many of them described following the directions on the signs as “straightforward.” Three people told us the signs confused them, reporting “I was confused the first time,” “the map threw me off,” and “[the signs] confused me.”

Red banner reading, "Hill Library's New Front Door" with an arrow, hanging on the south side of Hill Library
When prompted, many students also recalled seeing the banner hung from the south side of the building, facing the Brickyard.

Two thirds of the participants knew there was a renovation going on, the entrance had changed, and not much else. Those who knew more told us:

  • The Tutorial Center is moving to Hill Library (four participants).
  • “Academic advising or something like that.”
  • “‘Student success’ something. That’s all I know.”
  • “Academic Success.”
  • “They’re building a new wing” (an inaccurate description).
  • Books have moved.
  • There will be a Visualization Studio.
  • There will be study spaces when the Tutorial Center closes in the evenings.
  • The Hill of Beans coffee shop has moved.

Five participants praised the appearance of the new Hillsborough Street entrance. This was interesting to us because we did not ask about this.

  • “I like the new entrance. It looks nice. I like the landscaping. It looks fresh. I like the seats and umbrellas. It’s a good way to enter the library.”
  • Another mentioned thinking in previous years that Hill Library had needed an entrance on the Hillsborough Street side.
  • “It looks pretty. I like the seating outside.”
  • “[The new entrance provides] easy access to bus stops.”
  • “Looks more put together.”

We asked participants if they had any trouble exiting Hill Library, as we anecdotal reports of visitors asking if there are other exits and using emergency exits. Most just said they exited where they came in and didn’t engage further with the question. A few did have more to say about exiting:

  • “I didn’t know where all the exits were.” This participant had the sense that where he was going from Hill Library made it inconvenient to exit onto Hillsborough Street and wondered if there were other exits.
  • “It’s harder to go into campus from the library now.”
  • “It’s kind of interesting you can’t go out to the Brickyard.”
  • “That was harder. I had to ask someone.”
  • “[Exiting is] fine except for when you’re on the upper floors; then it’s harder.”

Quotes about the renovation

  • “I’m excited about [the renovation]. More study space will be fantastic.”
  • “It looks super cutting-edge. It’ll get Hill onto Hunt’s level, which I appreciate.”
  • “The facility is obviously top class.” 
  • “[The Hillsborough Street entrance is] difficult. I wish there was another way in.”
  • “Hillsborough Street is not as convenient for students.”
  • “There are only two good bathrooms. I had to run to the 9th floor to find a bathroom.”

How participants receive campus news

Given our interest in students’ knowledge of what is going on at the Hill Library, we asked participants how they usually hear about campus news. Eighteen of the 27 said email was an important source of information for them. They get emails from:

  • Clubs (three participants).
  • Student government (two participants).
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences (two participants).
  • Advisors.
  • University Scholars program.
  • Women In Science & Engineering (WISE) Village.
  • Study Abroad office.
  • College of Sciences.

Others mentioned:

  • Friends, professors / instructors, word of mouth (nine participants).
  • Flyers, posters, signs (four participants).
  • Libraries’ website (three participants).
  • Instagram (two participants).
  • Digital screens around campus (two participants).
  • Twitter.
  • Technician student newspaper.

Conclusions and recommendations

Despite the disruptions caused by a major renovation, most of the participants we talked to had positive things to say about the Hill Library. 

We have put a lot of effort into wayfinding signage to help patrons find the new entrance, and that seems to have worked well. We should keep it up and make similar efforts in the future.

The Hill Library renovation will add a number of new spaces and services. Most of the students we talked to do not yet know what those are. We should consider how we could focus our messaging so that our audiences’ knowledge can increase from a general sense that there will be some new things at the Hill Library to knowing about one or two specific new offerings. Given what participants told us about how they learn about campus news, we could try to get our messages into email channels.

How We Did It

For two hours on the morning of September 5, 2019, in the Park Shops building on North Campus, we offered cookies, brownies, and apples to passersby for 5-10 minutes of their time. We chose to go outside the Libraries so that we could talk to at least some students who had not visited Hill Library since we closed the Brickyard entrance and put up signs to explain and promote the renovation. It worked; we talked to four students who had not visited Hill Library since the summer and others who go rarely enough that we likely would not have talked to them otherwise.

We used the Tiny Café format but changed the name to Tiny Cookie Bar because we didn’t want to offer coffee in such proximity to the Port City Java in the Park Shops building.

At the end of our questions, we gave participants an information sheet about the renovation. 

We used the pictures below, printed on two pieces of paper, to ask participants if they remembered seeing signs:

 Map of the area surrounding the library from the north, with pulled-out photos of three signsMap of the Brickyard and library from the south, with many pulled-out photos of signs and easels

We talked to a wide variety of students: four freshmen, four sophomores, seven juniors, eight seniors, three graduate students, and one staff member.

Their areas of study were animal science; biology; biomedical engineering; business management; Chinese; civil engineering; communications; environmental engineering; finance; first-year engineering; French education; industrial engineering; international studies; math; psychology; Science, Technology and Society; social work; and zoology.