Volume 31, Number 1 May 2012
Monday November 20th 2017

Library Technology and the Future of Libraries

Physical space and hyperspace were the focus of the 2012 LACUNY Institute. Two speakers and a panel discussion addressed these issues during “Library Technology and the Future of Libraries” at the Graduate Center on June 1. LACUNY President Dalia Leonardo introduced the two keynote speakers. Jeffrey Hoover, a Boston-based architect who specializes in designing learning environments, particularly those in libraries, emphasized creating spaces that encourage collaborative learning among students. Hoover called attention to the public’s misconceptions about libraries, as with a New Haven Press article claiming that “nearly every manuscript printed has been scanned into an instantly accessible database.” He pointed out that the 129,864,880 titles to be included in Google Books are a mere fraction of the books published worldwide since the invention of printing. Despite the increasing availability of electronic resources, college students remain concerned about physical libraries, according to Hoover. He cited a recent survey revealing that 53.6% of prospective students take libraries into consideration when choosing where they will go to school. In addition, 21.1% of the students surveyed gave poor library quality as a reason for not declining colleges.

Library space and technology have become more important that collections and research assistance, said Hoover. Information commons, which allow students to perform collaborative research, are becoming more popular than computer labs. Hoover presented several slides illustrating various ways of creating information commons where research, writing, and IT help (and often food and drink) can be available in one space. Stressing the importance of “thoughtfully defining spatial character” in libraries, Hoover said that information commons increase the use of digital resources by fifty-six percent.

Jessamyn West Jessamyn West

A completely different look at libraries was offered by Jessamyn West, who practices librarianship online at librarian.net and MetaFilter. West, who also works at her local library in Vermont and has written Without a Net, talked about issues related to the online universe as a spatial concept. According to West, there is a cultural divide in the United States between those heavily dependent upon computer technology and those who think they can live without it. The latter often find themselves at their public libraries seeking assistance in completing job or unemployment applications online. In Vermont, according to West, even hunting licenses must be obtained online. West emphasized ways in which digital space can be made more open. The final portion of the institute was “The Future Is Now: Tales from New CUNY Libraries,” a panel discussion moderated by Margaret Bausman of the Hunter Social Work Library.

Phil Swan, of Hunter Social Work, explained how his new facility has created an information commons with the reference and circulation departments operating at one desk. He also described several architectural deficiencies such as not having alarms on doors. Architect Calvert Wright talked about the ongoing renovations at Hunter’s Wexler Library. David Koenigstein of Bronx Community College presented slides covering the construction of his campus’ new library.

Michael Adams (Graduate Center)

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