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University Librarian's Reflections

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  • The LIbrary of the Future is . . .
    September 09, 2012

    True, there hasn’t been much activity lately in this space, which doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the potential and possibilities of future academic libraries. But, you know, summer happens. And then it is fall. And, here we are.

    Fall 2012. Academic year 2012-13.

    Persistent challenges remain - - resource, service and space planning within the “box,” creative thinking and stewardship alike impeded by conventional constraints that face our academic library colleagues in public higher education.

    Persistent challenges aside, I suggest that it is still important not to lose sight of big thinking. Okay, so today, we are not, at UNCW, engaged with a project the size and magnitude of a new academic library. Still, for me, thinking about the potential and possibilities of future academic libraries is not only inspiring, it also infuses, in various ways, daily decision making.

    So, back to big thinking.

    When a project the size and magnitude of a new academic library comes forward, where do you start? Does every voice count equally? Or, do some voices count more than others in shaping new academic libraries?  How do you begin to create a vision that will help guide the project from beginning to end? A vision that applies across multiple generations of students? A vision that is both big and bold?

    Stepping back and thinking about what the purpose of the library is might be a good place to start. Today setting a high-level vision is a particular challenge because first, academic libraries do so many things and second, we are at a crossroads in which the fundamental nature of academic libraries is undergoing dramatic change. 

    At UNCW, Randall Library is a major campus landmark that makes an important statement about the UNCW community and its values.

    A few big, tough questions for our students, faculty and staff are in order. Is Randall Library a place where you convene to create community? Is Randall Library part of your academic identity? What role does the library play in supporting your overall education? Does Randall Library inspire you?

    As I said, today, we are not planning for a new academic library. Still, it’s not too early to think about the potential and possibilities of that new facility, when it comes, and not too early to ask big, tough questions - - questions which just might make a difference in the design and delivery of today’s resources and services.



  • Prototyping the Future, Starting with . . . our Physical Spaces
    June 01, 2012


    I’m jazzed. Check out  this YouTube video about the Transformation Lab. It’s worth 5 minutes of your time.

    The video overview of Aarhus Library in Denmark is powerful. Flexible spaces, open events, and interactive installations which link the physical to the virtual, including an exhibition lab, a music lab, and augmented library spaces,  define the future here. Most importantly, users are the co-creators of this space. Technology is, as we might expect, front and center when it comes to reinventing the physical library.

    So, what is the role of physical space as we prototype the future? Informed, cooperative development of our physical spaces is key to our futures. Our users are very much a part of the visioning process.

    And, lest you think the development of the physical library of the future can be completed - - well, think again. The development of the physical library of the future will never be complete. It is an ongoing, never ending process.

    Are you up to it?

  • Toe Tapping all the Way
    May 30, 2012

    Thank you Doc.

    What does this have to do with the future of libraries? Nothing. But, I suppose that he would be pleased with our efforts, speaking broadly, to inhabit his records, and make them more broadly available.

    Doc Watson.RIP. May 2012.

  • "When the smartest person in the room is the room, how do we design the room?"
    May 23, 2012


    I continue to be inspired by the work of Harvard Graduate School of Design students in Biblioteca 2: Library Test Kitchen. My latest discovery is a podcast that explores the question "When the smartest person in the room is the room, how do we design the room?" A play button on this site will take you right to the audio. http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive/podcasts/radioberkman200 (accessed 23 May 2012) Library expert Matthew Battles ask Radio Berkman host David Weinberger "When the smartest person in the room is the room, how do we design the room?" If you haven’t looked at Weinberger’s book Too Big To Know, then Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200. (Ah, the good old Monopoly days!) Get your hands on a copy of this book and dive in. The book’s subtitle is Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.


  • Learning in the Library of the Future
    May 20, 2012


    Can a building be a learning tool?  Visit the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL)[1] at the University of Calgary, and you tell me.  Here different types of study, from collaborative to contemplative, are actively supported.  

    Even a short virtual visit quickly affirms that this is one of the most technologically advanced student libraries in North America. My short visit was also long enough to convince me that yes, a building can facilitate new ways for students to engage, learn, communicate and play.

    But, we knew that, right? After all, consider the information commons, learning commons, research commons, faculty commons and anything-else-commons that define today’s academic library spaces. Here’s the thing - - our commons are defined learning spaces within spaces.

    Let’s return to the TFDL for a minute and then revisit the question of whether or not a building can be a learning tool. Designed by Kasian[2], one of the world's leading architecture, interior design and planning firms, the six-story 24,000 square meters learning and research centre, opened in October 2011.  Inspired thinking is reflected in this unique combination of a library, art gallery, archives, rare collections, and a student success centre. Productive connections between students and their environment are made possible by design and further enabled by the latest digital tools for learning and research, all using the most advanced technology available.  Information about technology in the TFDL can be found here http://tfdl.ucalgary.ca/tech (accessed 20 May 2012). The TFDL is connected to the University's MacKimmie Library tower, which opened in 1966 and houses the universities largest collection of printed volumes.

    Read about the grand opening of the TFDL at http://tfdl.ucalgary.ca/ (accessed 20 May 2012). The TFDL FAQ provides background about digital libraries and digitization; further questions provide information about what makes the space unique, how it supports research, how the technology supports collaborative learning, how the space improves traditional library services, and more (http://tfdl.ucalgary.ca/faqs ,accessed 20 May 2012). A fascinating assortment of facts about the TFDL can be found here http://tfdl.ucalgary.ca/facts (accessed 20 May 2012). Oh, and don’t forget to check out their digital signage too - - http://tfdl.ucalgary.ca/signage (accessed 20 May 2012).

    More information on the Taylor Family Digital Library is available here or at http://kasian.com/modernlibrary (accessed 20 May 2012). Look at the photos. Watch the intro video. Download the case study. “Wow” is likely to be your response. It was mine.

    What do you think? Have Kasian and University of Calgary partners identified, understood, and addressed the needs of today’s students through design? Is the TFDL a learning tool?

    Oh, and by the way, librarians, architects, planners, designers, technologists and educators from across North America recently met in the TFDL to explore trends and concepts shaping the design of contemporary libraries worldwide.[3] I think they chose the right setting for the meeting.

    [1] http://tfdl.ucalgary.ca/ (accessed 20 May 2012)

    [2] http://kasian.com/ (accessed 20 May 2012)


  • Darn and Double Darn!
    May 10, 2012

    I won’t be able to attend the Library Technology and the Future of Libraries, LACUNY Institute 2012, CUNY Graduate Center: June 1, 2012.

    Why “darn?” Well, I did work in the CUNY system for a number of years and selfishly, it would be nice to see colleagues and friends. And, I was at the table when ACRL/NY was formed.

    Why “double darn?” Well, the 2012 Institute promises to help us explore the ways technology has transformed how users discover, access, and ultimately use information in academic libraries. So, like, you know, those of us who are serious about our futures should pull up a chair, take our seats, see for ourselves. You think?

    From the Institute’s blurb - - “Changes in library technology mean not only a re-imagining of traditional objects such as a book or a journal, but also involves configuring a library’s physical space and how that space can be best used to serve one’s user community.” http://acrlny.org/?p=1896 (accessed 10 May 2012).  

    Impressive keynote speakers and panelists promise (oops, there’s that word again) to engage attendees.

    Someone send notes, or offer to take notes, or some combination of the two!

  • Envisioning Public Library Futures across the Pond
    May 05, 2012

    A series of workshops are taking place across the pond this month as part of Envisioning the Library of the Future, a program of research and debate. Envisioning the library of the future is a program of research and debate that will help the Arts Council of England develop a long-term vision for public libraries in England. For more about the Council, http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/ (accessed 5 May 2012).

    The workshops are designed to allow people to take part in a discussion that will begin to envisage what the library of the future could and should look like. Research into societal trends that is currently taking place is presented as a set of possible scenarios, followed by exploration of the implications of these scenarios for the delivery of library services in the future. The events also involve open space discussions about how library services could develop.

    For more information about Envisioning the library of the future, visit the libraries pages of the website - - http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/supporting-libraries/libraries-consultation/(accessed 5 May 2012).

    Thumbs up to the Arts Council of England for tackling these issues head on, and for doing so in such an inclusive and engaging manner.

  • Public Libraries in the Digital Age
    May 04, 2012

    Coming up for air and from thinking about academic libraries, I spent a few minutes thinking about the evolving role of libraries in communities. This latest Pew Internet & American Life Project, Public Libraries in the Digital Age, was presented to the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies at their spring meeting on April 25, 2012.

    Whatever type of library you either work in, hope to work in, or are interested in, the libraries research under Pew’s auspices is definitely tracking. In this particular report, there’s information about reading, e-readers, gadgets, tablets, people’s expectations of libraries, readers’ habits, and more. There are many take-aways for librarians.  

    I suggest that thinking about our futures, constructively and creatively, requires getting out of our library-type silos. Wouldn’t you agree?

    For the presentation, see http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media/Files/Presentations/2012/Apr/PIP_COSLA_Libraries_in_the_digital_age_04252012_PDF.pdf (accessed 4 May 2012).

    If you don’t know about the Pew Internet & American Life Project, visit http://www.pewinternet.org/About-Us.aspx (accessed 4 May 2012).


  • 10 Changes Plus 1
    April 28, 2012

    Quick - - what 10 changes can we expect from the library of the future?

    While you are thinking, consider this list, shared by Stephen Abram[1] and taken from Online Universities.com, an online resource for students interested in going to college online.[2]

    1. More technology
    2. Sensory story times
    3. Better outreach to ESOL and ESL adults and children
    4. Automation
    5. Emphasizing community space
    6. More social media savvy
    7. Digital media labs
    8. Electronic outposts
    9. Crowdsourcing
    10. More active librarians

    Now, consider a slightly revised question - - what 10 changes can we expect from the academic library of the future?

    Do you come up with the same list? I didn’t think so. Here’s my response to that slightly revised question:

    1. More technology and more technology faster
    2. Increased prevalence and integration of search, navigation, and other discovery technologies
    3. Greater emphasis on technology enhanced individual and collaborative spaces
    4. Students really matter
    5. Increased reliance on learning analytics in service design and delivery
    6. Outcomes focused organizations
    7. Increased alignment of strategies to performance
    8. Development of business plans aligned with strategic plans
    9. More entrepreneurial librarians
    10. Customer focused innovation
    11. Experiences that enhance staff’s ability to drive innovation in their organizations


    [1] http://stephenslighthouse.com/2012/04/26/10-changes-to-expect-from-the-library-of-the-future/ (accessed 28 April 2012)


  • The Times they are a Changing
    April 17, 2012

    Thinking about our so-called information society, and the future of academic libraries, two items in particular caught my eye yesterday. Perhaps they caught yours too.

    First, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday. The New York Times won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, one for its reporting on Africa and another for an investigative series on obscure tax code provisions that allow wealthy corporations and citizens to avoid paying taxes. But as reporters, commentators and pundits are saying, the bigger surprise this year came from new media. Online news outlets The Huffington Post and Politico both won their first Pulitzer Prizes, a sign of the changing media landscape.

    Personally, I am saddened by the lack of prizes in some categories. For example The Pulitzer Prize board did not name a winner in the editorial writing category and, as a second example, notably declined to name a winner in the coveted fiction category for the first time in 35 years.

    I digress.

    I mentioned that two items in particular caught my eye yesterday. The second item has nothing to do with an award - - well, at least a current award. It concerns a question - - "Watergate 4.0: How Would the Story Unfold in the Digital Age?" Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein gave their assessment at the annual American Society of News Editors conference this month by referring to how Yale students answer a similar question assigned in an advanced journalism class.

    So think about it - - before ‘Watergate’ could be Googled . . . . And? What do you think today’s Yale students thought? Listen up.

    “Mr. Woodward said he was shocked by how otherwise savvy students thought technology would have changed everything. ‘I came as close as I ever have to having an aneurysm,’ he said, "because the students wrote that, 'Oh, you would just use the Internet" and the details of the scandal would be there. The students imagined, as Mr. Woodward put it, ‘that somehow the Internet was a magic lantern that lit up all events.’" (http://0-search.proquest.com.libcat.uncw.edu/wallstreetjournal/docview/1000397580/fulltext/13625CCB707470B5779/1?accountid=14606) (accessed 17 April 2012)

    When the esteemed Pulitzer Prize goes to online news outlets, and Yale students appear to think that ‘Watergate’ could now be reported without actual reporting, well, the changing media landscape changing is evidence of so much more, all of it with powerful implications for academic libraries.