I’ve just visited Calgary University’s Taylor Family Digital Library. This state of the art library was completed in 2010, incorporating the latest digital technology, as well as RFID technology.
It has the largest retro gaming collection in Canada. The ‘digital media commons’ has suites for editing, shooting film, animation 3-D rendering, and sound. There is a ‘sandbox’ that includes a large touch table and digital globe on which students can project their research on anything from immigration patterns to climate change and ocean currents and musical influences. There library also has a special visualization room on the 4th floor that allows professional research to be displayed in detail on a floor-to-ceiling high resolution screen with surround sound. There are screens above the reference desk show visitors how many people are using the library at one time and how many people are using our digital collections at any given time.
‘We see digital humanities as the next big trend’, Claudette Cloutier explains as she shows me around the library. The library currently has some facilities to support this growing interest in an area of research and teaching at the intersection of computing and the humanities. In addition to supporting students and faculty interested in digital humanities, the library helps graduates and faculty manage their user identity, which involves showing them how to promote themselves online during their academic careers.
But, it does not have everything the students and faculty might need as it’s difficult to keep up, Claudette explains.
The library has 29 collaborative workrooms with large wall-mounted flat screens; these sit between four and eight people. There are six larger practice rooms – for presentations, hosting a seminar, or even chatting on skype. The practice rooms have ceiling-mounted cameras allow students to playback their presentations to review their performance. Students book rooms via touch-screens located on every floor. The library also has open collaborative spaces on the 2nd and 3rd floors – these collaborative areas have mobile furniture and white boards.
Since the furniture is not fixed to the ground the students move chairs and tables around the new library. This means that the library will never look neat and tidy. And, it is noisy. ‘Even if the tables have separations on them… they want to sit together. They want physical closeness’. ‘When our 4th floor was originally designed, we had bar seating, but it meant that students were very loud … even though we designated it as quiet study floor’, Claudette continues.
So, when the librarians had the option of adding 300 seats, so that the total number of seats was 1900, they installed study carrels. They also replaced some soft furnishing with furniture that supported individual study instead of collaboration. As you walk out of the lifts on the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors, now, rather than seeing a swathe of soft furnishing, you see a bank of small partitioned desks.
And, it is quiet.