Today my colleague and I were fortunate to participate in a workshop run by the passionate and inspiring Liz McGettigan, who is the Director of Digital Experiences at SOLUS. The workshop was entitled Changing Spaces, Changing Minds, and focused on how to combine the physical with the virtual in public spaces. Although the workshop was aimed at Librarians, and investigated Liz’ and the participants’ experiences in libraries, many of the ideas and concepts could easily be adapted to apply to any learning space.
Like many institutions, libraries are currently in a state of flux. Whereas once libraries were a fount of knowledge, and librarians the gatekeepers of information, today, everyone has the world’s information in their pocket. So how do libraries (and many would argue schools) remain creative, relevant and sustainable community spaces where rich, real and relevant learning occurs? Just like in Will Richardson’s text Why School? (a extended essay which for $3.10 is a must read for anyone involved in education), Liz challenged us to step away from negative mindsets limited by funding shortages and staff cuts, and instead to embrace a new way of thinking about libraries, which focuses on leadership and vision.
“At a time when the provision of knowledge and culture is increasingly digital and screen-based, the value and importance of high-quality physical spaces and experiences is growing, not diminishing” Roly Keating, CEO British Library.
This quote by Roly Keating set the stage for an important discussion – how to effectively combine the physical and the virtual – to find the right balance so that library is seen not as a dusty remnant of the past, but as a living incubator of ideas, learning and innovation. The clues for how to achieve this are in the strategies employed by the commercial sector – entrepreneurial vision, effective marketing and meeting user needs – indeed, Liz encouraged us to ‘shake of our modesty’ and promote the wonderful work libraries do, and to make sure everyone knows that the library they remember from their childhood is now a completely different space!
Here in ResourceLink, we have been working at combining the physical space with the digital for some time. We have re-designed our physical space to create a more open, welcoming atmosphere, with more areas for groups to meet and work, inspired by the work of David Thornburg, Ewan McIntosh, Bruce Mau Design and others as you can see in this infographic I created to the right (click for a larger image):
We have played with Augmented Reality, both as a learning tool and as a way of engaging our users in our displays and resources, which we shared in this blog in the article Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace
We deliver a hybrid collection of resources, including physical items, digital and online resources through our online catalogue. Indeed, my colleagues and I joke that we would like our library management system to be one day ‘greater than Google!’. We use a range of different tools for information service delivery, including social curation tools such as Pinterest, Diigo and Bag the Web and social catalogues like Library Thing (click these links to see some of our collections).
Additionally, we provide access to e-books and audiobooks using the Overdrive platform, integrated within our library management system. Also included in the catalogue are bibliographic records linking to resources that include online video clips, websites and app reviews. Users may also search and access a selection of alternative providers from within the catalogue. This carefully evaluated and up to date list of alternative providers include Getty Images, Khan Academy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Australian National Library.
In doing so, it is hoped that if no physical item is available to meet the user’s needs, there is a far greater chance that the information the user is seeking will be available via one of these alternative formats or avenues.
We have also dabbled in Makerspaces, creating kits that schools can borrow so that they can play and learn. The development of these kits was inspired by the work of Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, and was informed by the best use of our space, and the needs of our users, which are mainly schools. You can read about these kits, and see how we put them together in these blog posts, Resourcing the Maker Movement and Running a Maker Faire.
With a focus on learning, creating and innovating, ResourceLink also has a production room, where we create many short films working with other members of staff at Brisbane Catholic Education. One of our productions was created to introduce users to our Digital Library collection:
What’s next for ResourceLink? Inspired by Liz McGettigan’s workshop, we hope to venture more fully into the social media space, engaging with our users more regularly in the virtual world, and spending more time developing our knowledge around online learning. We aim to continue developing our content and to work towards truly being an incubator of ideas, inspiration and imagination.