Sept. 20, 2018

Calgary 'head of the list' of library cities around the world

Designing Libraries conference at UCalgary attracts international experts
The seventh annual Designing Libraries conference included tours of the Taylor Family Digital Library.

The seventh Designing Libraries conference included tours of the Taylor Family Digital Library.

Dave Brown, Libraries and Cultural Resources

About 200 librarians, architects, planners, designers, technologists and educators from around the world were on campus this week for the seventh annual Designing Libraries conference co-hosted by the University of Calgary, Coalition for Networked Information and North Carolina State University.

The three-day conference sold out in weeks with registrants from all over North America as well as Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Japan and Europe. There were attendees from top universities across Canada and the United States, as well as numerous architects and designers.

Conference participants toured the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) and had a sneak peek tour of Calgary’s much-lauded New Central Library, which opens Nov. 1. One of the building’s architects, Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, helped tour people through the new public library and was one of the many speakers at the conference.

“Perhaps at one time, people thought we wouldn’t build any more new libraries. You could get all the information you need on your laptop or mobile, but in fact libraries have become an intense people space for collaboration and creation,” says Tom Hickerson, who co-founded the conference in 2012 when he was vice-provost (libraries and cultural resources). “Libraries are hot.”

And there is nowhere hotter on the library circuit than Calgary.

“We are probably the richest place for libraries,” says Hickerson, who oversaw the development of the TFDL which opened in 2011. The library has been recognized as one of the most innovative libraries ever built. “When I led the design of TFDL, I was convinced the pace of change was tremendous and we should build a library for continuous change,” he says. “With TFDL, the National Music Centre and now the new Calgary Public Library — which is an architectural jewel — Calgary is at the head of the list.”

Conference topics including new technologies, expanding partnerships, renovating existing facilities, and high-density storage and design. Librarians, architects, and planners are all interested in finding out more about models, best practices and innovations.

“We know that libraries will continue to evolve with the introduction of new technologies, and this conference provides a mechanism to learn from both the Taylor Family Digital Library and other leading projects,” says Dr. Joan Lippincott, PhD, associate executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information and co-founder of the conference. “Libraries today are as much about providing the community opportunities for creating information, in all types of formats, as they are about access to information, and we are continually learning how to develop and provide expertise for these new activities.”

“Libraries are about people,” says Hickerson. “Our collections play a central role and they contribute to the preservation of education and culture but today we focus more on the people. Not just giving them access to information but giving them the spaces and technologies to actually create new knowledge, for these users to be creators, not just readers.”