[LINK] University of Queensland Librarian on Change in Library Design and Role

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Mar 30 12:19:05 AEDT 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 
virtual realities.


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 
physical access;
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.

Event Spaces

It is important that spaces used for events also have flexibility. 
Considerations include:
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 
centuries"); and
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 
original hard-copy.

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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