Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Thriving Physical Library

If you search for "library", "donation" and "million" in Google you will see that libraries all over the place are receiving hefty donations that in many cases are for building, rebuilding or renovating libraries. Many donations seem to be in the 1-2 million dollar range, but there are a few that stand out because of their size. The University of Calgary, in Alberta, where I worked for over ten years recently received a $25 million dollar donation from a single source--that's Canadian dollars and translates to around $22 million US at today's exchange rate. This is in addition to $113 million in base funding from the provincial government. As an oil-rich (and natural gas rich) province Alberta is awash in money and it is good to see libraries sharing in the wealth.

Oddly enough (to me anyway), although the money is going towards building a physical library it is to be named the Taylor Family (after the donor) Digital Library. In an email to U of C staff, the President, Harvey Weingarten, wrote: "The Taylor Family Digital Library will allow the University to bring together a vast amount of information, and more importantly, the professional staff to help students find their way. It will offer more study space, more computer workstations, specialized training and seminar rooms, wireless Internet access and more than 50 rooms that can be used to discuss and present information. The Taylor Family Digital Library will result in a 30% increase in available study space on campus, the kind of space we need to further the opportunities for collaborative, multidisciplinary teaching, learning and research."

I can only imagine that despite the planned floor space of 42,000 metres the hope is that people will associate the "digital library" building with digital collections. But I am not sure why a physical building is needed to "bring together a vast amount of information" and I think this is mixing up the brand message in a way that doesn't really celebrate what will likely be an outstanding physical space, while also participating in the truly digital library initiative in Alberta, the Lois Hole Campus Digital Library.

1 comment:

Bookyards said...

Enjoyed reading your post.

I have been involved in digital libraries for the past ten years.
Our site is located at www.bookyards.com

Unfortunately....with the exception of Google's Digital Library project.... very little if any monies have gone into the development of true digital libraries.

Todays more successful Digital Libraries are actually creations of people who love to do this...and are doing this on shoe-string budgets. Big projects...a lot of fan fare....I have seen them all, and they have all been disapointments.

In todays world physical libraries is where the money, goes for the simple reason that it is there, you can feel it, it is something solid that one can relate to. I believe that it will take at least one or two more generations before people who wish to donate funds will see virtual properties the same way as they see physical ones.