Using technology to make the most of your library space

Sponsored: James Breakell, UK MD of leading library security provider D-Tech International, looks at current library tech in the education sector

Here at D-Tech, we see a lot of evidence that the academic library sector is making changes. There is still a need and great demand for traditional library facilities where students can access the research and information they require and study in a quiet, dedicated space, but access to those facilities in line with today’s 24/7 lifestyle has called for a review of opening hours and library security.  

The Horizon Report highlighted ‘Rethinking Library Spaces’ as a mid-term trend, something we have seen in the public library sector for several years but which is prevalent across academic libraries now, too. Despite the concerns that libraries would become defunct following the launch of e-books, we are finding they are evolving. The Horizon Report states: “People now look to libraries to assist them and provide tools for skill-building and making. Libraries are ideal environments to serve as creation hubs on campus. This function is a natural extension of their traditional role as facilitators of knowledge creation and as spaces where scholars can connect. To catalyse creativity, many library makerspaces are adopting emerging technologies such as 3D printers, flexible displays, media production tools, and natural user interfaces to enable the act of making.”    

Libraries are making space for info creativity, but also for learning spaces that accommodate the way students study together. Access to IT is crucial for both and has seen a sharp rise in the provision of laptop loans in libraries. Our ComputeIT cabinets are increasingly popular for laptop deployment, storage and charging, allowing students to leave their heavy laptops at home if they choose to, and removing the worry of their security. Interactive displays and regularly changed exhibitions encourage access to the wide range of library resources and generate student interest in subjects not always considered ‘in vogue’.

James Breakell

Keeping track of the success of changes to library spaces can be quite tricky, but it is important to know what works and what doesn’t. To ascertain if certain areas are receiving more visitors there are several different ways to track movement within a library; thermal imaging people counters provide accurate data through integrable software.   

The Horizon Report states: “At a time when discovery can happen anywhere, students are relying less on libraries as the sole source for accessing information and more for finding a place to be productive. According to an EBSCO survey on how college students conduct research, 68% start their research process by using Google and Wikipedia. As a result, institutional leaders are starting to reflect on how the design of library spaces can better facilitate the face-to-face interactions that most commonly take place there. In this manner, staff are examining patron behaviour to inform decisions for strategic plans and budgetary considerations. Many libraries are making room for active learning classrooms, media production studios, makerspaces, and other areas conducive to collaborative and hands-on work. These changes reflect a deeper pedagogical shift in higher education to foster learning experiences that lead to the development of real-world skills and concrete applications for students.”

I believe there will always be a need for traditional quiet study spaces in academic libraries and finding the balance between them and a busy social learning hub is a challenge for every discerning librarian. Technology within the sector is available to facilitate many of the changes modern study demands though, and it is important that we embrace the opportunities it provides. 

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