Discovery counters, visualization rooms and collaborative spaces
Concordia's R. Howard Webster Library is in the midst of a major makeover. The facility, located in the J.W. McConnell Building (LB) on the downtown Sir George Williams Campus, is getting a new design, new furniture and an impressive amount of new technology.
While libraries typically conjure up images of dusty bookshelves, piles of books and rows of study carrels, imagine instead a space equipped with technologies for collaborative work, touch screens, single-board computers, beacons, digital discovery counters and 3D printers.
“What was once merely a physical location where vast amounts of books were stored will now become a much more interactive and stimulating place,” says library computer technician Jim Harris. "It'll be a place to better ourselves."
Paul Fournier, the library’s manager of information systems and technology, adds that libraries everywhere are reinventing themselves, re-thinking their roles and modernizing their services.
“It has caused people to shift their thinking about what kinds of activities happen in a library and how technology supports those activities,” says Fournier.
Once inside the library, students have access to a whole new range of digital support and work spaces. They can seek help and advice at the Information Desk or can explore the library's offering through one of the Discovery Counters.
Discover the digital collection
Concordia’s libraries are acquiring more and more new materials in digital formats. And to facilitate access, the Webster Library is developing a Digital Collection Discovery Tool that students can use to explore the wealth of information accessible to them.
Users will experience this from the Discovery Counters — large, interactive tables where users navigate the multi-touch interface — or by using their preferred device.
As for study spaces, students have over 3000 to choose from. They can also reserve the group study rooms, which will feature collaborative LCD screens.
Students can connect their devices to these screens, and easily switch back and forth between them. This way, they can make and discuss changes together, without having to crowd around one laptop.
A visualization room and more
The library’s technology program includes a Visualization Room — a space with large, human scale screens designed for exploring large data sets, looking at digital images and video and doing immersive and interactive work.
In addition, students can make use of the Technology Sandbox, an open maker’s space within the library.
“We’re empowering students to use technology they wouldn’t normally be able to access in a library,” says Fournier, adding that the devices on offer include 3D printers, microcontrollers and single-board computers.
Active learning .. in action
The library’s classrooms are also undergoing a transformation based on an active learning model. The updated rooms will be equipped with tables and chairs that can easily be moved around to facilitate group activities. The rooms will also be fitted with the same collaborative screens as the group study rooms.
The university is also planning transformations are also at the micro-level. The library is currently experimenting with Estimote Beacons to see if these could be used for wayfinding purposes.
The beacons are wireless sensors for indoor positioning that broadcast specific signals containing information about a location or an object in that location. As a pilot project, three beacons have been placed in the library, and the library is asking for input from various groups on how they should be used.
“Way-finding technologies will assist students in finding what they need in the Library,” says Harris.
Currently, the Webster Library is in the early days of its transformation — phase one of a four-phase project. The project is scheduled to wrap up by October 2017.