Changing role of libraries

The digital age has brought transformative change to the scholarly information environment and has dramatically changed the way faculty and students use libraries. Library users have a diversity of information needs and libraries worldwide are responding to the challenges of the digital age by rethinking approaches to library facilities, services, and collections. The previous paradigm of acquiring resourcing ‘just in case’ a user, now or in the future, might access the resource has largely been replaced by the paradigm of ‘just in time’ access and information delivery.

There are many external factors forcing transformative change in libraries, such as shifts in scholarly communication and how research is published and disseminated, technology that allows users to access information without intermediation, user demands for access to new types of scholarly information (e.g. data sets, multimedia resources), and accelerated globalization. Learners and researchers have new demands due to the complexities of blended learning, experiential learning, distributed learning and the concomitant need for mobile content delivery, increased focus on research data management and data mining, and increased options for disseminating research.

This all translates into changing user demands for space and services. Libraries across North America and around the world are responding to these changes in user needs and expectations in exciting and innovative ways.

Campus Conversations: McGill libraries (Feb 16, 2016)
Two McGill students and the Dean of Libraries on what defines a modern library and how it contributes to university life.

Library as place: Rethinking roles, rethinking space (Feb 2005) PDF 700KB
This publication from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is intended to stimulate thinking about the role of the library in the digital age, about the potential—and the imperative—for libraries to meet new needs, and about how these needs will influence the design of physical space.

Planning process

In April 2016, Group2 Architecture Interior Design Ltd. and Perkins+Will were engaged to develop the University Library Transformation Project Branch Libraries Master Plan. This master plan builds upon the Murray Library Master Plan (PDF 21.3 MB) completed in 2013 by the same team. The master plan presents a strategy for architectural and programmatic interventions that will ensure the libraries have the capacity and flexibility to meet the evolving needs of students, faculty, and staff at the University of Saskatchewan.

With a cohesive master plan the University Library will be able to deliver the services that users require within a framework that is both efficient as a system and responsive to the unique needs of the users at each of the libraries.

The master plan describes the current state of each library, including types of services and spaces. It then outlines the users’ needs for each library, at present and into the future, addressing the University Library as a unified entity while expressing the individual characteristics that are important to serve users at each of the locations.

These needs were developed through:

  • A randomized survey sent to over 8000 faculty, staff, and students (survey results PDF 100 KB)
  • Focused consultation sessions with a number of student groups
  • Pop-up consultation booths in seven locations across campus
  • Consultation sessions at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre and the International Students and Study Abroad Centre
  • Sessions upon request with faculty
  • Website and email feedback

In addition, a core stakeholder group representing faculty and students from across campus served as a ‘sounding board’ for the consultants as they progressed through developing the master plan.

Master Plan

The master plan builds on the vision of University Library spaces as environments that create a sense of community and foster connectedness to enable and enhance learning and discovery in all areas and that promote engagement through collaboration, both formal and informal, to aid learners, teachers, researchers, and scholars in achieving their academic and research goals. Accessible physical library collections are consolidated in three collection hubs with small, targeted, high-use collections in other locations.

Underlying the plan are five key principles:

  1. Create a sense of one library open to all
  2. Celebrate unique environments and collections
  3. Provide a variety of learning environments in each branch
  4. Cultivate knowledge creation and learning support in its many forms
  5. Create opportunities to open the library to the outside community

The plan is based on the assumption that the library retains its current physical footprint. In order to create new learning and research spaces, the master plan includes consolidating the print collection. This consolidation is done in three ways: through the use of compact mobile shelving in public spaces, through the expansion of on-campus library storage space, and through collaborative print archiving with the Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL).

The master plan shows high level blocking of programming areas within each library space. The detailed layout of each program area is not currently known; furniture is included in the plan simply to provide a sense of scale. The plan also reflects the anticipated space needs as of fall 2016. As library space development progresses, further in-depth consultation will need to occur with library users to ensure that the new spaces still meet the needs of students, faculty, and staff.

The master plan provides the framework for the continued evolution of the University Library over a ten-year period (2017 - 2027). The future transformations planned for each library will both redefine library services and provide new social and learning environments throughout the University of Saskatchewan.