Creating a Library for the future – Part two!

Recently, I wrote about our new library and how we had tried to create a library for Toorak College that would meet the future needs of our school. There are lots of photos in that post, but most were taken before our furniture had arrived. I thought I’d provide an update with more pictures and discuss some of the furniture choices we made.

Making spaces flexible was always a motivating factor behind our choices. We have flip tables on castors in our large conference space. The chairs are incredibly comfortable and are on a sled base. (We are still waiting for our full complement of chairs. In the photo above you can see some loan chairs that will be replaced with the orange 3D chairs once the next shipment arrives) The sled base makes them really easy to move around. We are constantly reinventing this space to meet the needs of large groups and special functions, so easy movement of the furniture is important. It’s not back breaking work sliding chairs and wheeling tables away! You’ll notice a portable interactive whiteboard off to the side in the picture above. We have three of these in our library and they can moved to where they are needed. Floorboxes dot the floor and have power and data points within them. They are constantly in use as our school is a 1:1 laptop environment and access to power is critical. There are large sliding doors that can close this room off, and we are finding it’s getting constant use.

What we’ve been really excited about this week was the arrival of what we call our ‘Snake Lounge’. This is a very large signature piece that winds its way through what we call the Learning Commons part of our library. It’s been enthusiastically embraced by students and staff alike. Seeing people’s reactions to it when they see it for the first time is incredibly rewarding. We are thrilled with how our vision was translated by the furniture craftsman, Abbas, who listened to what we described and built something that probably has surpassed our expectations. Judge for yourself from the following pictures.

 

It is beautiful! Watching the students use it is so gratifying. Today, during lunchtime, every part of it was being used. Some students were relaxing and talking while others were working at both the attached tables and the benches. The ottomans serve as both stools and tables for laptops and books. Once again, they can be easily moved around -the ottomans that is! The Snake lounge isn’t going anywhere -it’s a permanent fixture. I’m not about to go breaking my back moving that one!

Our Multimedia room has been fitted out with desktop Mac computers.

I included this picture in my last post about the library, but it remains one of my favourite spaces, although it’s probably tied with the Snake Lounge now! We called it the Presentation Room, but our students have coined it the Beanbag room, and that name has stuck. It gets constant use, both with classes and as a relaxed space for students during recess, lunch and after school.

All of these spaces require teachers to rethink their use of the library. Our previous building had clearly designated class spaces that mimicked classroom configurations of the traditional classroom. This new library is very different, and students find spaces that work for them. Quite often a class is not contained in one space; they spread out and use breakout rooms, couches and tables. We are seeing our senior students gravitate back (they have their own senior centre) and they especially enjoy the small breakout rooms that allow them a quieter space for study. (You can see the breakout rooms behind the Snake lounge in some of the pictures above). That’s another thing I am pleased about having; the quiet spaces that we never had in our previous library. There are some who crave quiet, and others who are content with ambient noise.

I am so pleased with how this building has turned out. We still need end panels for shelves and some more relaxed seating options. The end panels will arrive in the coming weeks, but other new furniture options may be on the backburner for awhile. Vinyl lettering and designs for our walls is something else we are putting thought into. It’s exciting to be involved in a project like this, and truly wonderful to walk into work every day and see a vision realised.

Creating a Library for the future

Well, that’s what we hope we’ve done. Created a Library for the future, that is.

When we started planning Toorak College’s new Norman Carson Library, we knew this would be a space that had to meet the needs of a school population into a future that will see a physical collection change as society becomes increasingly comfortable with digital storage and usage. The space needed to be flexible and able to accomodate our book collection, but we didn’t want the books to be the predominant feature. We realise that fiction will be with us for some time, but our non fiction collection we see as a shrinking collection. We needed to find a way to make it inviting, but able to be transformed with changing times.  You get one shot to get things right. Our students return next week, and we can’t wait to see their reaction to the space. It will be their usage of the spaces that will let us know if we’ve hit the mark. I thought I’d share some pictures here to demonstrate the thinking behind the design.

The non fiction shelving in our large learning commons space. We wanted to utilise the wall as much as possible so that we could hopefully accomodate two classes in this space. We will have to see if it is possible once our furniture arrives.There are three break out rooms at the back of the learning commons space. We see these as small group work spaces, meeting spaces and private study areas. Each room has it’s own LCD TV to be used for presentations by students and staff. A divider separates two rooms so that we can create a larger space for a small class if necessary.

Room divider

This is the large conference/work/relax space at the front of the learning commons area. This room has a large divider (see below) that can provide us with a large room for Year level presentations. It has a projector and very large screen for this purpose. (see below) We aim to provide flexible furnishings in this space that can allow for it to be transformed for different purposes. This vista of this space is simply beautiful. It looks out to our Edna Walling designed gardens and historic Hamilton Building.

High pitched ceilings give the library a feeling of additional space, and louvre windows will help with the release of heat when the air conditioning is not being used.

Here is the circulation desk, opposite the entrance, with the library workroom behind. It divides the two spaces of the library and allows for visibility to the learning commons space and the reading and multimedia spaces.

The library workroom is centrally located, with windows all around giving visibility to all areas.

This is our Multimedia room, that will be fitted out with Mac desktops. It adjoins our fiction/reading spaces.

This is our Fiction collection, looking out to our reading space. We are going to replace a standing double bay with wall shelving to help us maximise space.

Our reading space. We intend to make this an L Shaped space, once we have the wall shelving in place.

Opening doors at the rear of the reading space open to this deck, making this an indoor/outdoor reading space. The tree behind has had its canopy trimmed since this photo was taken, and it looks even more picturesque.

This tiered room, for chillin’ out and relaxing, or for presentations to groups, adjoins our fiction/reading space. It’s my favourite room, and has a very high ceiling giving it an interesting acoustic quality.

It is so exciting having the opportunity to help plan and realise a new learning space for students. Like I said, the proof of its effectiveness will lie with student usage. Seeing their reaction to this space when they return next Monday will be something to savour I’m sure. There are floorboxes with data and power dotted throughout the space for our power needs (we are a laptop school), and we will have netbooks and iPads available for student use when their own devices are not with them.

Our next step is furniture, and this is exciting too. February will see the first installment with more to come in a second stage. Flip tables are being used, as are ottamans, colourful chairs and what we are calling a snake lounge, and that will be the signature piece of the Library space.

Hopefully this will be a space that will meet our students needs well into the future. We wanted it to be welcoming, and it certainly has a homely feel when you enter it. It has been enthusiastically embraced by staff, and I expect to see the same reaction from our students, maybe an even more effusive one. I’ll let you know how it’s received.

 

Aha! Publishers respond to changing trends. But when will we see files borrowed from libraries?

The UK branch of Dorling Kindersley presented this at a sales conference, but decided to release it publicly after the response they received internally. They commissioned Khaki films to produce it and you can read about the process on the Penguin Blog (USA).

I see young people at my school continuing to read voraciously. Not all of them obviously, but we do have readers who go through five or more novels a week. One of our challenges is to keep the new fiction up to their requirements! We have three Kindles, and will begin lending them out for a week at a time next term. We’ve decided to not invest in more of them and are awaiting the release of the iPad to see how that looks. But really, the reader device is not our big issue. I don’t see us purchasing these devices in bulk and borrowing them out. I see our clientele having a device (their own computers can fulfill this purpose!) and we as a library lending out a file.

Our big issue is, how is the publishing industry going to respond to the rollout of a device like the iPad, and how will we as Libraries be involved? My personal opinion is that I think the iPad is going to be the start of the revolution that will see an ereader device have a major impact on the way people read. But the tricky question for libraries will be, how do we become a part of that revolution??

Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, I’m not seeing this essential question being answered in the networks I inhabit or by the publishing industry. I did discuss it with the developer of the library system we have just moved to, and he was talking about having the ability to encrypt files so that they could be transferred to a device, but they would only remain on the device for a two week period. When that time was up, they would once again appear as a file available for borrowing. Now that made sense to me; in fact, it was the first time someone had presented an idea that I thought was even feasible.

The same issue relates to audiobooks. One of our students had a wonderful conversation with me last week about the great things she can access on iTunes. She’s not an able reader, and her mother had suggested she download the audio version of the text they are studying at Year 10 to her iPhone. She has been listening to it on the bus on the way to school and was telling me how she was now able to understand and contribute to class discussion. This was just wonderful; I was so thrilled for her because I know she struggles with English classes. She suggested that we download the book and share it with students. I had to explain to her that we would have to ensure that we loaned it out as a file, but only one student at a time could access it because of copyright considerations. Now, how do we go about doing just that? How do we ensure that the file we loan isn’t copied and transferred to someone else? How do we enable producers of content to receive their rightful royalties for the work they have produced?

Are there answers out there to these questions? If there are, point me in the right direction, because I want to make my library relevant to the kids we teach. I want to see them able to borrow files like these and not have to fork out money to pay for everything they want to read on an ereader or listen to on an iPod or other MP3 device. I want my library to fulfill the function libraries have been performing for the last century or so; ensuring access to information.

The way information is accessible is changing; the way Libraries lend content will change with these new ways of receiving information. Let’s work out how we’re going to go about doing it.

Seth Godin on libraries – take heed

Seth Godin has written a brief, but pretty accurate in my view, summation of the future of libraries. I’ll post it in it’s entirity here, but make sure you start reading Seth. I do nearly every day.

The future of the library

What should libraries do to become relevant in the digital age?

They can’t survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don’t want to own (or for reference books we can’t afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That’s not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.

Here’s my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.

Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.

It’s that final sentence that holds the key to survival of the Library profession, and it’s up to Library professionals to understand this and skill themselves up so that they are up to the challenge. If you’re a Librarian right now and you don’t know what Diigo or Delicious are, or how you use Twitter for real time search, or how to go about trying to find the experts out there who may be able to answer the questions your students are posing, then you better start rethinking what it is you are doing. Libraries are not going to be about the book collection forever; they’re not about that now in my opinion. They are about being a connective space; a space where reading, discussion and discovery take place. The professionals in those spaces need to be the information sherpa enabling new understandings of how we go about finding out what it is we need. It means letting go of knowledge and giving it up to empower others. Don’t see that as a threat, view it as an opportunity. If we don’t, the information sherpas in our school are not going to be emanating from the school library. Instead, they’ll be the educational technologists out there who will rise to the fore. Missed opportunities could mean a lost profession.

Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson and Scott McLeod have all posted responses to Seth’s post. Make sure you visit these for their insights.

Extinction timeline – is your career in danger?

Kathryn Greenhill was sending out tweets the other day from a conference she was attending in the Netherlands. Helene Blowers (who originated the 23 things idea for libraries) was presenting at the time and I was watching the ustream thanks to a tweet from Kathryn.  Helene referred to the extinction timeline from the Now and Next website and had it on the screen while she was presenting. Unfortunately I couldn’t see the slide and asked Katherine if she had a link. While I was waiting for a reply I searched for Now and Next and found the timeline.  I was able to send the link to Kathryn who then tweeted it out.  How’s that for communication across the globe!

The timeline itself is very interesting. In small print it does say ‘not to be taken too seriously’ but it does pose some scenarios that are plausible. Some are even likely to occur even earlier I suspect. Post offices and Size O are predicted to go in 2019, but Libraries are also touted as going in that year. Ten years from now! 

Hopefully Librarians are going to be proactive in re-envisaging their services to respond to our changing society. Both Helene and Kathryn have uploaded presentations to slideshare that address issues facing libraries and the type of thinking required to ensure survival of the buildings and the profession.

Helen’s presentation; Finding the Phoenix: Feathers, Flight and the Future of Libraries.

Kathryn’s presentation; What kind of better than free is your Library?

Great ideas Ladies. Thanks for extending the thinking.

“Books, newspapers face battle in dawn of digital revolution”. So says the Geelong Advertiser.

Yesterday I posted about the Geelong Advertiser and the interview I conducted with them after they contacted me via Twitter. At that stage I’d searched the site but couldn’t find any article referencing my name.

Today I received this tweet from John Pearce;

mrpbps @jennyluca The Geelongaddy article re U and someone called Pesce who dominates conversation 🙂 is now online Go Jenny http://bit.ly/3fkxj

Mark Pesce’s comments were the main focus of the article. He made reference to the function of Libraries in the future and this is where my comments were slotted in. Here’s what was mentioned;

While it sounds like a new world order, Mr Pesce believes people will turn to libraries to restore order in their own lives.

The public library will be where people go to catalogue the huge data shadows they are creating with digital photographs and recordings, he said, while books will become archives.

“Today librarians keep catalogues to keep books ordered. They are going to pass this on for you to use.

“It’s going look different but it’s going to help order your digital lives,” he said.

Toorak College librarian Jenny Luca said libraries will become a place for discussion and connection.

“It’s absolutely essential that we look at the new technology and find ways to make it meaningful for the kids that we teach. The collaborative nature of those tools is such now that we will actually make connections with the people behind the keyboards and learn from those people.”

But books will still have a role. Fiction is still a vital collection, Ms Luca said, while non-fiction was losing relevance to online content

I have to admit to being pretty chuffed to see my name in an article alongside Mark Pesce’s. Thanks Peter Farago for interviewing me and getting the article to print.  Special thanks go to John Pearce for making the effort to let me know the article had been published. 
 

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The future of libraries, continued….

I’m finding it harder and harder to get to my RSS feeds in my Google Reader. I’ve no doubt this is in large part due to Twitter consumption. The temptation is always there to just check in to see what’s going on and before you know it you’re off exploring 8, 9, 10 links to new stuff that’s just downright interesting. Of course, as you’re exploring those, the hypertext environment that feeds off these links takes you other places and before you know it, two hours have elapsed!   

Well, I’m glad I found some time because I stumbled on a link to a blog post by Adam Corson-Finnerty, a Library Administrator from Pennsylvania. He was referring to Academic libraries, but I think his message has meaning for school librarians too. It’s time we shifted our mindset if we are going to remain at all relevant in years to come. Read what he has to say;

              Get out of Real Estate

Close as many libraries as you can.

Get out of the Study Hall business.

Your remaining facilities should be recast as “learning labs” or “learning environments.”

Downsize or eliminate your high-density-storage facilities.

Get in to or get out of the Book Storage Business.

Convert your storage facility into a regional storage facility that is self-funding, or

Pay another institution to store any books that you absolutely have to own, and

Pay this institution to loan you books as you need them from their combined holdings, or

Have this institution scan any book that you need and produce your own POD copy, and give it to the patron to keep (you really don’t want it back).

Get out of the book-buying business—only buy books when they are requested.

Keep only what is heavily used

Use “scan on demand” ILL services wherever possible

Use print on demand

Use in-house or nearby print-on-demand service for quick production.

Re-deploy your people

Get your people out of supervising the study hall, standing-behind-a-service-desk, giving directions to the nearest bathroom.

Retrain Librarians as “Informationists” or “Informaticians” or whatever new term breaks them out of the old mold. Your new librarians will be full members of academic research teams, or will “team” with individual scholars, including undergraduates. Many on your staff will have to become data curators, if not database creators.

Focus on the delivery of digital resources, services and tools

Continue and strengthen your role as Information Broker for the entire University

Emphasize training patrons in information-finding skills.

Emphasize digital self-help.

Emphasize collaborative tool-development with faculty

Emphasize collaborative resource-building, and resource-sharing with other Research Libraries

Emphasize physical and digital preservation of assets.

Lots of what he says here rings true for me. What about you? I’m sure there is still much to be said about the future of libraries. How we respond to prompts like these is the truly difficult and confronting challenge facing us, but face them we must if we want to remain relevant.

Adam provided a link to No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century. You can download the PDF at that link.

   

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