Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Emerging Themes for Public Libraries Looking Forward

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Emerging Themes for Public Libraries Looking Forward

Article excerpt

This paper draws out the themes, discussions and learnings from the 2009 Ifla Metropolitan Libraries Section mid term meeting in Brisbane. Papers at the meeting emphasised the use of buildings, staff development and workforce planning and the use of research to inform decision making and implement evidence based practice. Also described is the evidence based 'Being the best we can' self evaluation process for public libraries developed in Victoria in 2009. Edited version of a paper presented at the Ifla conference 23-27 August 2009 in Milan, Italy.


The first speaker at the 2009 Ifla Metropolitan Libraries Section meeting in Brisbane provided fascinating insights into how technology, most particularly wifi, is changing the use of library buildings. Dan Hill from Arup * has been working with the State Library of Queensland on its exciting new facility that will provide space and resources to create digital content.

In order to understand how people are using the library Hill analysed the use of wireless internet provision and how it has activated spaces that would otherwise be empty. He found that it was being used almost 24/7 and it was only between 3-4am that there was no use. He described how people will seek out nooks and crannies, seats, floors, tables, any furniture, to create small spaces for themselves and their laptops. They work singly and in groups. Because the technology is pervasive he cautions against over programming spaces--the internet just leaks through. His observations showed that people were using the library space and wifi for business, study and social networking. 94% of people surveyed told him that the provision of free wifi encouraged them to use the library.

Hill described some of the creative concepts that are being explored for the State Library of Queensland. He talked about the possibilities of making the invisible visible, exposing in an anonymous but collective way what people are accessing on the web. This could be done in different ways using data collected by the wifi.

Some of the ideas it is looking at are

* inside the building, describing in cloud tags what people are accessing and displaying these on a physical space such as a wall

* externally, to indicate to the outside world what is happening inside the building, having light globes that look like poppies installed on the river in front of the building and which glow red according to the amount of bandwidth being used. This will show the activity inside and broadcast it across the river; as well as providing an artistic statement.

Hill's central tenet was that ICT is now a strategic driver. It is no longer in the background but it is changing culture and services. We need to move the virtual and the physical together and align them. He gave the interesting example of how things are moving off the internet onto paper--Things my friends have written on the internet is a print publication that publishes blogs as a news magazine.

The project that Hill has been working on for the State Library, The Edge, is to open early in 2010--see The Edge will focus on digital productions and interactive installations such as the poppies. It will offer space for collaborative learning, experimentation and exploration of craft, technique and technology connecting informal learning with formal education, creative, cultural and business networks. It is based on the same principles as the Eyebeam Art and Technology Centre in New York City, which delegates heard about from another keynote speaker Liz Slagus.

In the general discussions on the use of buildings and library layouts, two strong themes emerged

* there is a definite trend for new libraries to work on a ratio of 1/3 space for collections and 2/3 space for people. In 2008 I led a group of Australian librarians on the Viclink Great Library Tour and we visited some of the most innovative and exciting libraries in the world. …

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