[LINK] University of Queensland Librarian on Change in Library Design and Role
Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Mar 30 12:19:05 EST 2011
At 11:31 +1100 30/3/11, Tom Worthington wrote:
>Greetings from the 2nd Annual Learning Commons Development and Design
>Forum, Brisbane. The first speaker was Keith Webster, Librarian,
>University of Queensland. He started with the good old days ...
Some of the comments reminded me of an assignment for the State
Library of South Australia (SLSA) back in 1998, mmmm, 13 years ago.
They had once-in-a-generation funding to re-model the building.
I said at the outset 'if there's ever a time you *don't* want that
funding, it's now, because right now all that we know is that
libaries won't be what they were'. But of course declining the
funding wasn't an option.
We summarised where they had to be in this diagram:
(Yes, it was on acetate, not in PowerPoint).
Extracts below, for anyone who's interested.
We didn't directly address the impact of mobile devices (which
started c. 11 years after we did the job). But otherwise I'm
relieved to say that very little of the document causes us any
I'll be in Adelaide on business next week, so I really ought to drop
in and see how much of the vision got translated into both real and
We concluded that:
The State Library of the 21st century will act as a portal through
which electronic visitors will gain access to a world of information.
It will complement its support for electronic information discovery
with a range of services, most of which will be delivered to distant
customers using telecommunications facilities.
It will continue to be a custodian of valuable materials; but access
to physical originals will occur less frequently, and collection,
cataloguing and provision of access to electronic data will be the
library's core function.
Information, especially information in electronic form, and hence IT,
must be recognised as one of the key drivers of the building's design.
One vital factor that must be kept in focus throughout the Project is
the designing-in of high-capacity and flexible networking throughout
the site. This in turn implies that the placement of data-cabling
and power-cabling to achieve flexibility of space-usage needs to take
primacy over other building services such as water, lighting,
telephone and air-conditioning.
In addition, it is important to the fulfilment of SLSA's business
development objectives to ensure the provision of multiple, very
flexible, IT-supported event spaces, including 'high-tech'
newcomer-orientation spaces and training spaces.
The technological changes have some potentially far-reaching
implications for SLSA and its IT strategy, including:
o possible rapid change towards dominance of electronic access over
o possible substantial substitution of access to electronic
representations in place of access to physical originals;
o possible substitution of informal 'versions' for formal 'editions';
o the increasing exposure posed by single-location electronic
storage, and the need for mirroring to counter those risks;
o possible marginalisation of basic librarianship skills, as all
knowledge-workers, aided and abetted by increasingly powerful tools,
become increasingly self-sufficient (much as telephone operators have
all but disappeared, due to technological improvements which have
enabled telephone-users to perform the function themselves);
o more likely enhanced opportunities for specialist librarians,
arising from the substantial difference in the effectiveness and
efficiency of highly trained information-research specialists,
especially those who have expertise in the relevant domain (i.e. dual
o possible marginalisation (dis-intermediation) of libraries, as
the creators and publishers of electronic works reach out directly to
the consumers of, and participants in those works; and
o probable adaptation (re-intermediation) of libraries through
specialisation into particular facets of work that are not core
competencies of other organisatons in the industry value chain.
A great deal of hyperbole is indulged in, not only by marketers and
the popular media, but also by commentators within the IT community
who should be more circumspect. Suggestions that all activity will
migrate into cyberspace should be ignored. Location matters, and the
focus of SLSA's thinking needs to be on enablement of electronic
services as a very substantial proportion of its services, in order
to adjust to an appropriate balance between physical and virtual
Multiple waves of change in the manner of usage of the physical
library are very likely during the life of the building. It is
therefore essential that flexibility and adaptability in space usage
be highly valued.
Events may well become an even more important focus of SLSA
activities than they have been in the past, making flexibility of
space-usage critical not only in staff and client-service areas, but
also in utility areas, such as exhibition, presentation, foyer areas
and even passageways.
It is an underlying presumption that what is currently regarded as
very high bandwidth (say, 100Mbps to individual workstations) will be
the norm in the near future, and that many services will be designed
based on that assumption, rendering even 10Mbps Ethernet LANs
progressively obsolete and unusable.
It is presumed that fibre-optic will be the mainstream cabling
technology for the foreseeable future, complemented in particular
circumstances by co-axial cable, and particularly in the short term
by twisted-pair cable, especially shielded twisted-pair.
Because of the high level of competition for the limited
electromagnetic spectrum, and the considerable levels of
electromagnetic pollution, there have to be considerable doubts that
wireless networking will become feasible as a substitute for
cable-based local area networking, although some relatively
narrow-bandwidth, short-distance services may use it.
Flexible Building Layout
It is important that spaces within the redeveloped Bastyan Wing be
flexible. Considerations include:
o location of walls, both ceiling height and open-plan partitioning;
o location of windows with respect to screen glare;
o isolation of quiet areas for study (white background noise);
o sound proofing of particularly noisy areas;
o location of data, voice and power cabling (roof, floor, wall) and
intensive cabling areas (cable corridors); and
o accessibility of data, voice and power cabling, in order to tap
in a new socket.
Examples of changes that may occur even in the short term include
greatly increased demand for workplaces with bare sockets, to support
the 'plugging-in' of portables, personal digital assistants (PDAs),
and 'computer-wear' such as enhanced spectacles, brooches and rings.
A further likely category of demand is what has been termed a
'kiosk-arcade', by which is meant space in which third parties can
install equipment to support functions like banking and insurance
transactions, and communications with government. At least during
the early years of the building, this implies the need for greater
cable-carrying capacity, in order to support private networks.
It is important that spaces used for events also have flexibility.
o the provision of multiple event spaces, not just one;
o the provision of diverse sizes and layouts;
o ensuring that event spaces are suitable for multiple-use, with
short changeover periods;
o provision of greater cable-carrying capacity in ducts, in order
to cater for multiple services that may require independent, private
networks (such as cable-TV);
o provision of support for technologies that are conceivable in the
25-35-year life of the building, even though they are not yet
deliverable. Above all, this implies flexibility of data-cabling and
power-cabling runs and outlets, and control over light sources;
o provision of a 'high-tech' and very flexible 'orientation space',
adjacent to the entrance, to which all newcomers are to be diverted.
This would perform two functions:
o conveying the image of a twenty-first century information
organisation (e.g. "the Bastyan Library of the 21st century, as a
complement to the Jervois/Mortlock Library of the 19th and 20th
o providing guidance to the facilities available in and from the Library.
The orientation space will be in need of progressive change, and is
likely to be required to support a rolling series of (relatively
small) physical and virtual exhibitions. It is highly desirable that
this be close to the coffee-shop and/or other relaxation spaces, in
order to attract clientele into the environment;
o provision of a 'high-tech' and very flexible training space.
This is likely to require frequent re-shaping to support alternative
teaching-and-learning theories and practices (e.g. from classroom, to
herring-bone, to wall-mounted displays and an open central area, to a
central laboratory with multiple breakout-rooms);
o wall-projection, which appears likely to become more important
during the life of the building;
o the provision of small-group 'laboratory-style' environments, for
same-time/different-place interactions (e.g. video-conferencing);
o the provision of medium-sized group environments for
same-time/same-place and same-time/different-place interactions,
using multiple-wall projection (e.g. visualisation, and virtual
reality examinations of models such as the interiors of
not-yet-constructed buildings); and
o the provision of large-sized group environments for
same-time/same-place and same-time/different-place interactions,
using multiple-wall projection (e.g. presentations, media-events,
Critical elements of SLSA's IT Strategy are:
o commitment to the electronic library philosophy;
o a strategic approach to digitisation;
o a strategic approach to integrated, cross-media publishing;
o a strategic approach to leveraging off existing specialist
holdings and associated specialist expertise;
o clarification of the business models ('who pays whom for what?')
on which the SLSA's various services are to be predicated;
o clarification of the channel strategies to be adopted (in
particular, direct-to-ultimate-user and/or via intermediaries);
o a systematic approach to intellectual property management,
including the generation of I.P. through the digitisation of valuable
holdings in which I.P. has expired; and
o consideration of acquisition in electronic format not only in
order to enhance access, but also in selected cases in lieu of
Roger Clarke http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au http://www.xamax.com.au/
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science Australian National University
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