For decades, college and university libraries have been continuously renovating their space and replacing technology. But what would a 21st-century library look like if you could build it from scratch, with a $100 million budget? Two years ago, Calgary’s Mount Royal University got the chance to do just that! This week, Ken Steele talks with MRU Provost Lesley Brown and Dean of Libraries Meagan Bowler about the Riddell Library & Learning Centre.
When it was announced that Mount Royal College would gain university status, the existing library was “woefully inadequate.” “We knew that we would have to build our collections, expand our services, and the information environment was changing in a rapid way,” Meagan explains.
The new $110 million facility opened in 2017 as the new centerpiece of the campus, and also houses MRU’s Department of Education, Student Learning Services, the Institute for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and the Academic Development Centre for faculty. The furnishings, architecture and zoning are designed to be progressively quieter from floor 1 through 4, and student spaces range from purely introverted study carrels and cozy benches for two, through lounge spaces and walking desks. But the 34 collaboration rooms have been the biggest hit, constantly booked up by students.
The MRU Library is a testament to active learning and emerging technologies. “We knew that students weren’t just consuming information,” Meagan explains. “They needed space and technology to engage with it, to mobilize it, to create it, to hack it up, to change it and to share it with other people.” The main floor “Ideas Lounge,” and a similar classroom, feature massive 6×3 screen touch-enabled visualization walls that allow groups to engage with multiple inputs simultaneously. The building also includes a VR Experience Lab, audio recording suites, and media production studios. In particular, we’ll focus on the 360-degree “Immersion Studio” and the “Maker Studio” in upcoming episodes.
The campus library is the “heart” of the university, explains Lesley, but also an “interstitial space” for exploring teaching practices, accessing and engaging with new information and technologies. MRU centralized these facilities to make them available across faculties and departments, and for interdisciplinary work. But an effective library needs more than space and resources, emphasizes Meagan: it also needs the expertise of talented librarians. “It’s a jungle out there in information-land,” she jests.
Special thanks to Mount Royal University for hosting our visit and providing the videographers for this episode.
In upcoming episodes, we’ll return to MRU to explore the Maker Studio and Immersion Studio in more depth. To be sure you don’t miss them, take a moment to subscribe at http://eduvation.ca/subscribe/
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