30 years in the making

by Sarah Bousquet

With a 30-year career that coincides with the advent of digital information and new modes of research and learning—more interactive and less reliant on physical materials—Principal Janette S. Blackburn, has charged her clients, peers, and industry to rethink the academic library. This work and her long-standing devotion to the evolution of design has earned Janette a place with the AIA 2019 Class of Fellows, and we couldn’t be more elated to celebrate.

We invite you to join us and learn more about Janette and her illustrious career rethinking academic libraries to create new paradigms and transform college campuses everywhere.

Setting strategy: Rethinking academic libraries

Focused on the values of the institution and the potential of the library, Janette creates aspirational buildings that are both groundbreaking and nimble, compelling stakeholders and designers to ask: What could be? With a deep perspective, Janette leads clients and design teams to advance their vision for tomorrow’s campus, providing context around the role of the academic library—past, present, and future—to keep it relevant for generations to come.

As a library designer and enthusiast for 30 years, Janette has become a renowned expert of the academic library strategic space plan—helping institutions create a spatial and programmatic road map that embraces the evolution of architecture to build a plan that ties current and future experiences and activities to campus strategy and culture.

Thomas Jefferson University’s Lawrence N. Field DEC Center

Creating new paradigms: Shaping the library experience

Janette has been a part of molding new paradigms for library interactions and innovative programs, seamlessly transitioning institutions’ mindsets and library spaces from subdued book fortresses to active, user-focused places that promote interactive learning and knowledge creation. She partners with higher education communities and design colleagues to re-imagine the academic library as a place that is as inspirational as it is versatile, creating a new library experience in which users are immersed, connected, supported, and energized.

Janette’s expertise and influence reaches beyond the walls of her projects. To expand the conversation and guide future designers and current librarians, she has prioritized her time to speak, write, and teach on a local and international level with prominent organizations such as the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), and several university programs including Harvard and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Learning Theater at Teachers College, Columbia University

Transforming campus culture: Seeing innovation

Janette’s innate appreciation for the way people interact, learn, and create has steered her work and passion for redefining academic library architecture. It’s this distinctive fervor, combined with a profound expertise that compels institutions nation-wide to reshape their library identities to be more forward facing—prompted by Janette’s innovative academic library design, planning, and programming. Emanating from her academic library projects, Janette’s work serves as a catalyst for the creation of flexible, interactive, and interdisciplinary “library-like” spaces campus-wide, and advances models for physical, social, and interactive cultures across the higher education industry—for example, the Learning Theater at Teachers College, Columbia University, an interactive pedagogical simulation space; or Thomas Jefferson University’s Lawrence N. Field DEC Center, a successful beta-type building rooted in Janette’s programming and design acumen.