Thursday, March 22, 2012

Books Without Paper and Libraries Without Walls

Of the readings, three are the jumping off point for this posting. Bobbi Newman writes that people need libraries to take on the task of helping them become transliterate (" Libraries and Transliteracy Slideshow," 2009). In her blog posting, Strange says “libraries provide ACCESS and COMMUNITY [Strange’s emphasis] to those who want it. And neither of those things, along with learning, are dependent on a technology, a medium, or a casing” ("Why we should stop caring," 2010). Finally, Charlotte Abbott poses the question as to whether e-books will destroy libraries ( 2010).

Libraries, in the meantime, appear to be stepping up to the challenge of the 21st century, offering a range of digital and traditional services. Edmonton Public Library (EPL), for one, appears to have invested heavily into its online presence at; it also is expanding its physical presence in communities such as Millwoods. People seem to be responding; in  2009, a population of 80,000 in that community generated 600,000 visits (“8278503222012045507648.PDF,” n.d.). In addition to its online presence and making e-books available to readers, the library is also lending e-readers (Unknown, 2012). It seems EPL’s wraparound approach isn’t limited to the provision of traditional offerings. A social worker has recently been hired at the downtown library to work with its regular users who have mental health and social issues. As the EPL says, “libraries act as community cornerstones that can help prevent and resolve societal challenges including drug abuse, crime and illiteracy that marginalize segments of the population” (“EPL receives over $600,000 for downtown community safety program,” 2011).

 In another example of a library that is changing both its services and how it provides them, the University of New Brunswick Saint John Campus opened the Hans W. Klohn Commons the summer of 2011. A beautiful building, its glass walls signal its openness to new ways of approaching the provision of information and supporting students. The Commons houses the campus library, the student technology centre, study rooms that students can book online, a research help centre, tutoring services for students who wish to improve their writing and math skills, IT support and a coffee shop. Initially designed to accommodate the services the library had traditionally been providing, changes were made during the commissioning stage to accommodate today and tomorrow’s students -  fewer desktop computers and more laptops, more plug ins, and more student spaces to gather. The library also culled many paper books which hadn’t been checked out for decades and paper journals now available online.  An extensive consultation process with faculty members was required to determine what should stay and what could go in today’s digitized environment, one that probably caused faculty members to reevaluate how they access information now versus when they began their careers some years earlier (“UNB Libraries - Hans W. Klohn Commons,” n.d. ; Karen Keiller, personal information, n.d.).

Libraries have traditionally supported literacy in many forms within their communities; this isn’t a new role.  In a thoughtful video, librarian Bush talks about the need for new literacy skills, saying that 20th century literacy required us to learn how to answer the question, but that 21st century digital literacy requires us to understand how to question the answer. "We need to know how to think critically around information, how to maintain a critical stance, and how to employ [that stance]," Bush said. "We need to know how to stay open to new ideas and information and to be open to change our minds if we find evidence that is valid" (Schroeder, n.d.) Ipri adds to the call for libraries to take on a stronger role in fostering transliteracy. He says that transliteracy questions the nature of authority and that libraries should be open to new authorities, allowing people to tag information and help create metadata(Ipri, 2010)

This creation of meta-data and the desire of people to access information about information may be the crux of what the library of the future will offer and what will keep it relevant, in addition to being the place where people can access a community of like-minded people and content in many forms. Libraries may also take on new roles in curating information.

One of the people posting a reply to Abbott’s blog said that e-books will further divide those who go to libraries and those who do not.  However, the availability of e-books may actually draw more people to access library services. While they might not walk in the physical structure (and they may do that as well), they may use the online services provided by libraries.
In The Emerging Importance of the E-book and Its Impact on Publishing, Sturgess and I noted that libraries are starting to use electronic publishing software to create journals and monographs for their users (Dyck & Sturgess, n.d.; Huwe, 2010). Gould (2009) says that if you followed along the long tail for academic publishing, it would include articles never published elsewhere, reinforcing the library’s role as curators and publishers (p. 235). These items which weren’t part of a library’s collection in the past also reinforce the need for libraries and others to teach 21st century literary skills of critical analysis and questioning the answer.
While this extension into the world of publishing may be a logical next step for libraries, Kathleen Fitzpatrick cautions that it is less so for academics and that academic recognition systems for promotion and tenure need to acknowledge the important work of editing and curating that is increasingly becoming part of the academic oeuvre.

So it would seem that libraries are not dead. However, just as printed books no longer signify the most authoritative source of knowledge, walls and physical collections of objects may not be the defining characteristics of tomorrow’s library.

8278503222012045507648. PDF. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Abbott, C. (2010, June 10). Will E-Books Really Destroy Libraries? Follow The Reader. Follow the Reader. Retrieved March 22, 2012, from

Dyck, J., & Sturgess, T. (n.d.). The emerging important of the e-book and its impact on publishing. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from

Edmonton Public Library Receives Over $600,000 for Downtown Community Safety Program | Edmonton Public Library. (2011, May 10). Retrieved March 23, 2012, from

Ipri, T. (2010, November). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News vol. 71 no. 10 532-567. Retrieved March 22, 2012, from

Newman, B. (2009, October 1). Libraries and Transliteracy Slideshow. Librarian By Day. Retrieved March 22, 2012, from

Schroeder, R. (n.d.).Information Transliteracy in the 21st Century Classroom. Retrieved March 22, 2012, from

Strange, J. (2010, June 29). Why we should stop caring about e-books versus “real” books. The Strange Librarian. Retrieved March 22, 2012, from

UNB Libraries - Hans W. Klohn Commons. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2012, from

Unknown. (2012, February). E-Readers in Libraries. Alberta Library Trustees Association. Retrieved March 22, 2012, from


  1. Thanks for your post Judith. I think you're right, that generally access and community can be provided independent of technology BUT what if the demographic is techy...then to provide that access and community (etc...) wouldn't we need to integrate the technology? I know even my small town local library is allowing iPads for borrowing and has an app.

    Did you know that in last year EPL won a major award?

    "The John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award (JCD) turned 65 years old this year and celebrated this milestone with the Midwinter announcement of the 2011 winners. Five vibrant libraries demonstrated innovative, outstanding marketing strategies in campaigns ending in 2010: Anythink Libraries of Adams County, Colorado; Edmonton (Alberta) Public Library; Loudoun County (Va.) Public Library; University of California/Santa Cruz Library; and Worthington (Ohio) Libraries."

    And read this:

    "Many libraries subcontract marketing and often abdicate campaign responsibility to consultants. Alberta’s Edmonton Public Library is a prototype for sensible integration of outsourced and in-house marketing. A dynamic rebranding featured a stylish new logo and a catchy slogan. “Spread the Words” took the library to the streets with an innovative guerilla marketing campaign complete with a “flasher” in a trench coat who walked around town and flashed a library T-shirt. Director Tina Thomas was pleased that, in a post-campaign survey of approximately 2,800 individuals, over 75% of respondents agreed that they preferred the new brand and logo. Watch this video to see Edmonton Public Library’s empowered staff touting the campaign."

    Just another way EPL is connecting to its demographic.

  2. Both EPL and UNB are integrating 'bricks and clicks' in providing their services. They also are both approaching their users from a holistic perspective - looking at their needs as individuals and community members and borrowers as one human package and using that as their starting point, what's being called in the safe communities world as wrap around services. At the UNB, for example, the head of the Common worked with student services to find a convenient and suitable area for students from the Middle East to use for daily prayers, because that was what they needed.

    In her blog, the Strange Librarian says if the trends keep moving in the direction they are, that libraries will lend out e-readers and not care if they have to wash the jelly off of them after use (and abuse) because they'll be cheap and ubiquitous.

    Thank you for that info on how EPL is carrying out its marketing. Their willingness to participate rather than outsource is another example of their willingness to be part of their community and their patron's lives, not leaving their brand in someone else's hands. Great client - wish they were mine!

    In contrast, you still can't log into the UofA library off of Moodle or BearTracks; once on their site you are subjected to different log-in processes in different places, they don't support Zotero despite acknowledging in personal discussions that it is superior to Refworks, their texting reference desk is only open very limited hours and there isn't a truly centralized search process - you often have to know which library to go to in order to access works on a particular subject. And if I was a UofA undergrad I wouldn't know where to go for help in writing and math, for example, something readily available at the UNB library. Those services certainly aren't clustered around the big help desk that should be the academic library. It really feels like they're falling behind - maybe they aren't, but that's the impression with which I'm left.