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Justin Quaintance

University of Calgary hosts library design conference

By Scott Strasser, September 20 2016 —

The fifth annual Designing Libraries Conference took place at the University of Calgary from Sept. 18–20.

Hosted every two years by the U of C’s Taylor Family Digital Library, the conference examines the role of university libraries in the 21st century.


Justin Quaintance

The idea for the Designing Libraries Conference emerged after the U of C opened the TFDL in 2011. Since then, the U of C and North Carolina State University — who opened their own digital library around the same time as the U of C — have taken turns hosting the conference.

U of C vice-provost libraries and cultural resources Tom Hickerson said the TFDL is an example to follow in university library design, as it was built with a focus on research and study space ahead of book storage.

“We really represented a different concept for libraries, so we drew a lot of initial attention,” Hickerson said. “I think most people would agree [the TFDL] is one of the most innovative libraries in the world.”

The Designing Libraries Conference had its biggest ever turnout this year. While the first conference in 2012 had an attendance of around 150 people from Canada and the United States, around 260 architects, librarians and academics attended this year. Attendees travelled to Calgary from as far away as Australia, Singapore and Jamaica.

“It seems the interest continues to grow — that how library space is used is a determinant of what services you provide,” Hickerson said. 

The overarching theme for the 2016 conference was “visualization and virtuality reality.” Some of the conference’s topics included “Looking Strategically at the Big Picture,” “Makerspaces in Motion” and “Innovations in Architecture in the Academic and Cultural Sphere.”

“My vision for the library of the future is that it will constantly be changing and that we build buildings that [will] allow us to realize that,” Hickerson said.

While the majority of the conference took place within the TFDL, other buildings on campus — and across Calgary — also held events.

The conference kicked off on Sept. 18 with a pre-conference event at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, but the conference also held events at the Studio Bell National Music Centre and Mount Royal University — a fitting venue considering MRU’s new Riddell library is set to open next spring.

Notable speakers at the conference included president and CEO of the National Music Centre Andrew Mosker, CEO of the Calgary Public Library Bill Ptacek and lead architect for the Calgary Public Library’s new central library Vanessa Kassabian.

This year was the third time the U of C hosted the Designing Libraries Conference.

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