August 2014 archive

Blog Task 2: Observation

Syracuse Hancock International Airport Observation


Traffic (foot and vehicle) in both directions, although more congested at the drop-off area. Airport employees/security guards hurry people along brusquely. They continue to reiterate that cars should not park in front, even to unpack the car and say goodbye to passengers. They encourage people to pay for parking in an airport parking lot far removed from the main building. People seem tired, hurried and cranky.

Check In

Upon entering the airport, I am greeted by copious amounts of empty space, haphazardly arranged potted plants, thin gray carpeting and a stray piece of furniture every couple of feet. Lighting is harsh and fluorescent. The environment feels slapdash and makes me somewhat uneasy. There is a long row of rental car vendors to my left and a few DIY check-in kiosks and a check-in counter to my right. The employees of the rental car vendors don’t smile or say anything as I walk past, although they are staring directly at me. The DIY check-in kiosks are all broken, and no airport employees are currently at or near the check-in desk. Directional signage is relatively non-existent as far as I can tell. Due to lack of proper signage it seems that people are moving from one check-in desk to the next, lugging their bags along with them. Again, people seem tired and increasingly more frustrated.


There is one line for security until you get closer to the front where it splits off into 2-3 checkpoints. Lighting is still harsh, maybe even more so than in the check-in area. People who didn’t say goodbye to friends/family/loved ones outside, are doing it now, albeit hurriedly, as no one but plane passengers are allowed beyond the security checkpoint. The security area has some informative signage, although the placement of said signage is at the front of the line. People seem to be scrambling to take out their laptops, and take off their shoes at the last second. They are also reorganizing their carry-on luggage, as well as scarfing down the last of whatever food they have on them. Perhaps as a result of the signage placement? The children seem impatient and whiny. They are crying a lot, or running around.


Terminal has places to eat, drink and sit as well as lots of empty, unused space. People seem a bit more relaxed here, as they settle in with their carry-ons and wait for their planes to arrive. Lots of people are reading physical books, or ereaders, using their laptops, or listening to music. Others are napping. Many kids are still running around, or crying while others sleep, or play games on digital devices.

Sketch of my observations (click to enlarge): SKMBT_42114080811460

Comments on other blog posts:

1. Shannon’s blog post 

2. Jo’s blog post

3. Margo’s blog post

Blog Task 1

Problem Space

I’ve been exploring the idea of capitalizing on unused/empty space in everyday places (in this specific instance, an airport) by turning them into non-traditional learning spaces.

My partner works at the Syracuse Airport, and talked about how there is a lot of unused or empty terminal space in the building.

photo 2 (2) photo 5 photo 3 (1) photo (7)

At around the same time, my friend, classmate & colleague Anna shared an article with me  about the first airport library near Amsterdam, at the Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands. In a 2010  New York Times article praising the innovative initiative, past President of the American Library Association (ALA) Roberta Stevens is quoted as saying, “We can’t cement ourselves into the past. We have to reflect the changes we see in our societies, and its clear that we are becoming more and more transient.” And thus, the idea of creating an airport library in Syracuse, NY or transforming empty space at the local airport into a learning space that benefits the people of the airport, and also provides marketing and outreach benefits to the libraries in this area was born.

Design thinking

Throughout the exploration of our required reading for the past few weeks, an integral framework to design thinking that stuck out to me was Tim Brown’s three stages; Feasibility, viability, and desirability (Brown, 2009).

Based on the subsequent success  of libraries in other airports (including Schiphol, and five other libraries in the U.S–most recently Boise, Idaho) creating a digital or little free library in the Syracuse Airport seems to me a feasible, viable and desirable project.

I think that designing spaces for learning should involve a high level of strategy, and intentionality as well as a firm knowledge of what your target audience/demographic/community wants and needs. From layout, to signage, to furniture placement, almost everything can serve a learning purpose if the space is used to its full potential. For instance, according to Reuter, 2007 children said that finding books they like is the biggest barrier they face to reading. Theoretically, if library spaces for children were organized in an intuitive way that made relevant reading materials easier to find, this barrier to reading dissolves.  As Brown, 2010 states, “A designer now must take the needs of the entire world, including the environment, into account.”

Along those same lines, I also think there should also be a dynamic interactivity between space and users of the space as opposed to a space being a static, monolithic thing.

Description of changes

A small pilot test of this design project would be the first step to change, in the way of a Little Free Library. The purpose of this pilot test would be to gauge overall interest of the airport customers’ in the service we’re hoping to provide (or to gauge desirability of the space redesign). Steps to implement the pilot project included:

1. Partnering with local libraries in the Syracuse area (or pulling from my own personal library) to put together a small collection of reading material for adults, teenagers and children.

2. Setting up pop-up little free libraries in the empty terminal spaces pictured above.

3. Observing those pop-up little free libraries, engaging with the airport customers using the little free libraries, and gathering valuable feedback to get started on next steps for a bigger, perhaps more digital airport library.

As the space redesign progresses, more updates will follow. Stay tuned!

Comments on other posts:

1. Patricia’s blog

2. Shannon’s blog

3.  Rochelle’s blog


Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation Harper Collins.

Clark, N. (2010). At schiphol, an unlikely sanctuary of books. Retrieved, 2014, Retrieved from

Prentice, G. (2014). Branching out: Boise library goes digital at the airport. Retrieved, 2014, Retrieved from

Reuter, K. A.“Children selecting books in a library”: Extending models of information behavior to a recreational setting. (Doctorate, University of Maryland).