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Librarian in Residence: Libraries as space

By Jessica Green on June 3, 2014

Jessica Green is a book addict and library card holder since the age of 3. She’s a librarian at the Ottawa Public Library and currently the Apartment613 Librarian-in-Residence, sharing a compendium of literary thoughts and tips.

“The last bastion of free, equitable, open, public space is the library” – Libraries as Space

Last week, I attended a panel discussion hosted by the Library Association of the National Capital Region association (LANCR) that was looking at the theme of “library as space”. The featured five speakers ranged from a planning librarian to a school principal, and it was a very interesting talk. You’ll find some of the highlights below:

Mark Gelsomino – Planning Librarian at the Ottawa Public Library

Mark spoke about the Imagine campaign held by OPL last year which looked to crowdsource ideas about new directions the library should take. The three main findings from this were that people wanted improvements to physical spaces, access to content and greater quantities of improved programming.

There also is a philosophical change for libraries as many are moving from “book warehouses” to “community hubs”. Aligning with these ends is the Maker movement which shares many of the same ideas as community hubs with collaboration, sharing and creativity being important. One result of this combination is the Imagine Space at the Nepean Centrepointe branch, which is using reclaimed space at the branch to house an array of technology for use by the public.

Michel Castagne – Web Initiatives Librarian at the University of Ottawa

Michel was looking at the library as a virtual space and touched upon one of the weirder areas of the internet, Second Life, which was all the rage in 2007, but completely fizzled out in a short time. This tends to be the theme of web trends where they peak quickly and then die off. So, libraries have to be cautious of what bandwagons to jump on.

He then spoke to what he does in his day to day which was more invisible type of work, but enables the users to have a better library experience. Efforts at common look and feel standards for all the faculties’ websites are well underway as well as trying to improve the mobile experience for users of mobile technology. It is all about staying current and caught up with changes, which is difficult at times, as well as reducing the information silos and sharing data.

Sarah Gelbard – Architectural Theorist, Independent Scholar, and Designer.

Sarah spoke to place as a practiced space and how design can impact a place. Are library spaces still relevant as everything seems to be moving closer to digital or virtual? We need to think of spaces differently, so some ideas are things like pop up libraries or little free libraries, but more importantly, architects need to reflect the needs and wants of the community, within reason.

Libraries are also now more about being civic landmarks. Some of the top award winners in Canada for architecture have been either library branches or central libraries.

Abdul Yusuf – Settlement Program Coordinator, Somali Centre for Family Services

Abdul described how important libraries are to newcomers who come from very different cultures/languages/backgrounds as they are spaces for them to come and learn new skills and languages as part of their settlement in Canada.

Libraries are good community spaces in this sense as they offer programs like settlement information, homework help, and ESL/FSL programs for free, as well as internet access, and volunteer opportunities. They have access to information in both English and French but also perhaps in their mother tongue.

Deb Woods – Principal at Viscount Alexander Elementary School

Deb explained how she has been an avid user of libraries all her life. Before becoming a principal, she always had projects where her students were forced to go to a public library to ensure they knew how to do research. In so doing, they also learned how important libraries are.

All in all, it was a very interesting talk. If you’re interested in any other LANCR events, you can check out their webpage. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the new Imagine Space…

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