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A transformative vision for our libraries

Proposal centres on more study space and cutting-edge technology
January 28, 2014
By Fiona Downey

Entrance to the R. Howard Webster Library Entrance to the R. Howard Webster Library and “Ask Us” space with green wall to the right. | All images courtesy of Menkès Shooner Dagenais Le Tourneux architectes

Concordia’s R. Howard Webster Library is at the centre of a proposal for a profound transformation that would reshape both physical spaces and current operations in line with an innovative vision of a learning environment for the 21st century.

In a presentation to Senate in December, Interim University Librarian Guylaine Beaudry and Vice-President of Services Roger Côté unveiled a plan that will respond to the increasing demand for study space and to changes in information technology.

“Libraries are places where critical thinking is encouraged to thrive,” says Beaudry. “We’ll be creating new spaces to stimulate intellectual discourse by accommodating group interaction and more social forms of learning as well as better conditions for silent study.”

A perspective of the second floor of the LB Building A perspective of the second floor of the LB Building: group study rooms on the right, glass wall of large study hall on the left.

Beaudry will continue to seek input on the proposed vision through a series of consultation sessions with members of the Concordia community in the weeks and months ahead, including a presentation to the Concordia Student Union council. Plans for the transformation project will be submitted to the Board of Governors for approval in the fall.

“Our students need more study space, and we have the opportunity to both expand our libraries and to provide the next generation of Concordia students with the very best learning environment,” explains Benoit-Antoine Bacon, provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs. “Every aspect of the project is designed to provide our students with what they need to excel.”

Library space per student is currently significantly below the norm set by Quebec’s Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology. Under the transformation proposal, the current number of study seats at the Webster Library will be doubled. Specific areas will also be allocated exclusively for the needs of graduate students.

A collaborative social learning space for group study work. A collaborative social learning space for group study work.

Enhancing the university’s libraries includes the ongoing evolution from print to digital materials, making room for the types of learning that occur beyond the silent rows of books in stacks. This will include consultation with faculty on how to reconfigure the libraries’ collections, and continue to improve reference, information and technical assistance services.

Concordia’s leadership in the field of open access to research will carry through to allow students greater access to a wealth of digital materials through a variety of new technologies.

The proposed plans for the Webster Library include the creation of a “technology sandbox” where students will be able to explore cutting-edge equipment to support immersive learning and teaching experiences.

In the coming months, library users will be asked to provide feedback on prototypes of furniture and technological tools. Be sure to make your opinion heard as the library of the future takes shape in the coming years.

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