Assessing GC Library Space

Mina Rees Library 2nd Floor Blueprint

Silvia Cho and Diana Teeter, both in interlibrary loan, conducted twice-daily occupancy surveys of the Mina Rees Library over two weeks in November and December 2018. They did this to see how many people use the library and where in the library people sit.

The study designated 445 spaces as a comfortable, ‘reasonable capacity’ for the three library floors. We chose this number, lower than the 595 physical seats in the library, because graduate students need elbow room to work.

Library Area Reasonable Capacity
Concourse 106
1st floor 38
2nd floor 301
Total 445


  • The mean library occupancy averaged 26% or 117.5 occupants.
    • Occupancy ranged from 13% (60 on a Sunday at 1 pm) to 38% (170 on a Saturday at 6 pm).
  • The concourse level accounts for 24% or 106 of 445 study spaces in the Library.
    • Concourse level occupancy averages 22%, and it was measured once at 45%.
    • A concourse level closure (not yet scheduled) will divert an average of 24 occupants into 339 spaces on the 1st and 2nd floors, raising library occupancy mean of the top two floors to 35%.
  • Work spaces on the 2nd floor, around the perimeter and near the windows, are most consistently occupied.
      • Maximum observed occupancy for both the 1st and 2nd floors was 45%.

    Because more people use the library at peak times, it may seem to more people that the library is more crowded than the 26% occupancy average. But even in peak periods, there is always space in the Mina Rees Library to spread out and work. Seats by the windows on the 2nd floor are in high demand, yet there is almost always space available in these high demand spaces during peak afternoon and evening hours.
    Library staff will repeat the study to track library occupancy patterns as policies and conditions change.

    See the Library Use Survey November 26 – December 9, 2018 data and findings summary in the CUNY Academic Works institutional repository.

About the Author

Prof. Polly Thistlethwaite is CUNY's Interim University Dean for Library Services.