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The reimagined library: more than a quiet place to study

A new website and expanded online-help service are among the most recent upgrades
January 5, 2015
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By Tom Peacock

Digital services outreach librarian Jared Wiercinski and business librarian Michael Groenendyk Digital services outreach librarian Jared Wiercinski and business librarian Michael Groenendyk believe that the mobile technology carts and screens in the 14 Grey Nuns group study rooms will provide students with new opportunities for digital collaboration. | Photo by Concordia University


Imagine a future space within the library where students from the university’s four faculties can converge to experiment with new technology and collaborate on projects. This is the kind of vision that drives Michael Groenendyk, a business reference librarian at Concordia.

“You could have someone — say, a visual artist — in this technology room using Adobe Illustrator,” says Groenendyk. “Then someone from computer science comes in who’s working on a visualization. They meet each other and the artist shows the computer science student a completely different way to display his or her data.”

This imagined scenario is not so far-fetched, especially considering that high-tech, collaborative spaces are part of the vision to transform Concordia’s Webster Library. The plan also calls for the acquisition of exciting new hardware, such as 3D printers.

It’s something Groenendyk knows more than a bit about, having pioneered the implementation of 3D printing at the Dalhousie University library before coming to Concordia last August.

Concordia’s librarians are brainstorming a lot of ideas, with an emphasis on equipment and software that could be useful for interdisciplinary projects spanning all four faculties.

Groenendyk says the future is wide open. “The idea of the library as this shared space where people come in, meet other people and get different ideas generating — that’s where we're going with it.”

In the meantime the library’s technology team is already busy implementing enhancements and updates designed to improve services.

Jared Wiercinski, digital services and outreach librarian, is on a team that’s in the final stages of bringing screen-sharing capabilities to the library’s online-chat help service. “Librarians will essentially be able to live broadcast their computers to students. It will allow students and librarians to interact more fully online,” he says.

The upgrade will also let students share documents with librarians, who can then assist them with tasks such as formatting proper citations. “Both people are looking at the same thing, and they can actually mark up the document together online,” Wiercinski says.

Last winter, Wiercinski was involved in the creation of a new “Library Resources” block on Moodle, which provides direct access to course reserve materials and recommended resources directly from class pages on the course-management software.

“The goal of the project is to bring library resources into Moodle to make it easier for students to get to the things they need,” he said at the time of its launch in January. Currently, the development team is working on some subtle upgrades to the tool.

A recently completed project is the major redesign of the Concordia Libraries website to bring it into the university’s new web content management system (WCMS).

The site got a whole new look and feel this fall, similar to the Concordia.ca redesign that launched last year. The new WCMS platform also enables reference librarians to more easily update their subject guides.

As Wiercinski explains, the site’s design was created in collaboration with the entire Concordia community. “The library’s web team has done a lot of work to get as much feedback as possible, interviewing faculty and staff, and working with students. We asked them to prioritize what they want to do and how they want the website to be laid out.”
 

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