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‘We put student and faculty success at the centre of our practice’

Guylaine Beaudry and her team are transforming the Concordia Library into a next-generation space for learning and research
December 7, 2016
By James Roach

Guylaine Beaudry: “Next-generation libraries should grow and evolve based on community need.” Guylaine Beaudry: “Next-generation libraries should grow and evolve based on community need.”

The Concordia University Library embraces innovation and change as part of its raison d’être.

In early 2015, university librarian Guylaine Beaudry and her team welcomed the opportunity to embark on a planning exercise and university-wide consultation to determine the vision and roadmap for the future of the library.

They did so as part of the Concordia University Strategic Directions process. 

As part of their drive to continually expand opportunities for intellectual inquiry, knowledge creation and collaboration, the library administration team published Inspiring Success: Concordia University Library Strategic Plan 2016/21.

The document is a response to valuable comments and feedback received from the Concordia community.

The library’s plan centres on four key areas for continued development: organize for empowerment, provide spaces for learning and research, transform the library services in line with changing needs, and collections at the heart of teaching, learning and research.

As a follow-up to the community consultations, we spoke with Beaudry, who provided further insight into the work taking place at the Concordia Library. 

What’s a next-generation library?

Guylaine Beaudry: That’s a great question and one I often hear prefaced with, “Why do we need academic libraries when there’s such a proliferation of coffee shops and online search engines?”

Being librarians right now is very exciting. Our generation has the responsibility to bring the library institution into the digital age. Much more than just a collection of books, it’s a physical and digital space fundamental to academic success, creation and the advancement of knowledge.

Our library is committed to serving society, supporting discovery and the freedom of speech and intellectual inquiry.

A next-generation academic library must regularly challenge its own assumptions, consult with the university community and evolve to support a strong culture of research, innovation, problem-solving and interdisciplinarity — and that’s what we’ve done.

In terms of physical spaces, next-generation libraries should grow and evolve based on community need.

The Concordia Library team engages in regular discussions and provides ample opportunities for dialogue with users to help offer the types of environments that facilitate active and collaborative learning and where students can undertake intensive study and research to direct the course of their academic experience.

At project delivery, the Webster Library transformation will provide 21 different spaces — all based on needs expressed during project consultations and LibQUAL+ surveys administered to students, faculty and staff.

So, in addition to our four key areas for development, Concordia Library has continually sought to evolve in response to community need.  

We provide access to extensive print and online resources that include journals, books and databases. These collections, spanning a wide range of subjects, are constantly growing in response to needs expressed by faculty and students from across the university.

Our openness and responsiveness as a next-generation library can be exemplified by 2015-16 user data:

  • More than 2.3 million library visitors, a 26 per cent increase over the past five years
  • 31.5 million digital resources accessed, an increase of 68 per cent in five years
  • 1.5 million titles in the monograph collection, growth by 10,000 to 15,000 titles per year
  • 106,000 course textbooks and coursepacks borrowed, a 97 per cent increase since 2010-11
  • 81,000 laptops and tablets borrowed, a 39 per cent increase since 2010-11
  • 57,000 questions answered by librarians and staff

These numbers point to a library that places faculty, staff and students at the centre of its planning and practice:

How will the activities in your strategic plan help the Concordia Library to further evolve as a next-gen institution?

GB: After community consultation, we defined 20 objectives grouped in four key areas, each with precise deliverables, project leads and timelines for implementation:

  • Organize for empowerment

    Rooted in the ongoing desire to support the development of library staff, we are going to continue investing in training and related mechanisms to empower our team to acquire the knowledge, skills and expertise to thrive in a changing library environment.

    Under the umbrella of empowerment, we will place a stronger focus on evidence-based assessment of our services and processes to provide the information required to make data-driven decisions that will guide our continued evolution.

    The library team will also focus on the development of a new research unit and a researcher-in-residence program.

  • Provide spaces for learning and research

    At the forefront of this key area is the ongoing work on the Webster Library Transformation. To date, we’ve delivered Phase 1 and 2. Phase 3 is slated for delivery in early 2017.

    Phase 1 on the third floor of the J.W. McConnell (LB) Building brought two large, enclosed reading rooms, each containing 210 seats, including 48 seats at tables with desktop computers and 84 carrels; one large collaborative space that contains three group study rooms; one seminar room and Friends of the Library Room separate from the other reading rooms; a multi-functional room and a visualization studio.

    Phase 2 on the fifth floor of the LB Building delivered 550 student study spaces, three new large reading rooms and a collaborative space. Delivery also included three silent dissertation writers’ rooms, shelving and lockers for graduate students to store their belongings and a graduate student lounge.

    At project delivery in late 2017, the Webster Library will provide a 114 per cent increase in its total number of seats, from 1,550 to over 3,100.

    And, let’s not forget about the Grey Nuns Reading Room and Vanier Library! 


  • Transform library services in line with changing needs

    Embracing change involves developing new ways to support teaching, learning and research that are in sync with digital culture and life in the wider university community.

    Some of our programs in development include IT support services for library users, enhancing our in-person service model, the technology sandbox as a user-friendly learning space to explore digital technologies and the recent launch of the Concordia University Press.

  • Collections at the heart of teaching, learning and research

    Print and digital collections are central to every library’s identity.

    Connecting us to the past, present and future, university library collections are fundamental to the advancement of knowledge through study, inquiry and research.

    Our goals for the Concordia Library print and digital collections include ensuring they answer users’ needs through careful assessment and development, and providing timely access and long-term preservation, as well as access to collections that include special and archival holdings.

Can you share other key initiatives that are planned for 2016-17?

GB: In addition to delivering Phase 3 of the Webster Library Transformation, we are also preparing for the fourth and final phase, which will include the technology program.

This is rooted in fostering a culture of experimentation within the library’s teaching and learning spaces. These include the multi-functional room, visualization studio and technology sandbox, which will provide access to 3D printing capabilities, virtual reality, drones, microprocessors and 360-degree cameras, among others.

We are rolling out a series of workshops for students and staff to learn and experiment with these new technologies. Stay tuned: information will be posted on the library’s website and on social media.

Next, we are getting ready to launch the LibQUAL+ survey across the university to solicit additional input from students on library services, collections and spaces to continue improving on our offer to the community. 

We are also working on raising awareness of the rich archival and special collections available at the Concordia Library as well as the recent integration of the Aboriginal Student Resource Centre book collection into the library catalogue.

Lastly, we are in the process of analyzing the Vanier Library’s space needs in preparation for a transformation.

As members of the library team, we put student and faculty success at the centre of our practice. We understand the strength of personal interaction to assist, teach and empower. We embrace innovation and change to provide outstanding library services and collections.

To put it simply, we want the library to make a difference in students’ learning experience.

Read the complete Inspiring Success: Concordia University Library Strategic Plan 2016/21, or watch Guylaine Beaudry's recent interview with Le Devoir.


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