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Monday, 12 August 2013

Library users & design

Edward Kostraby

UNSW main library tower

Getting the right fit between a library, and users is an ever evolving environment. Libraries, are no longer archetypal, but with constant refurbishment and build of new spaces and constructs, design, plays an ever increasing central role in the right fit for all who use a library. The right fit is not a “now thing” but has been evolving for a number of years. It is perhaps now that library design is actually considering users within this concept. Both of the Australian articles presented provide welcome content for the use of library spaces, while the third article discusses this from a school perspective. 

Nimmo, an architect, explores, the process of innovation in spatial design and the process of design, “…an interactive design…between architects, librarians and stakeholders”. This is a welcome statement. The process as outlined, seems to provide a worthy consensus outcome. Nimmo looks at two projects he has been involved in, refurbishing the UNSW Menzies Library, a ten year venture and a green fields build for the Gold Coast City Council, a somewhat quicker outcome. Critical is expounding ones first principle, what are we actually going to do?  A three stage workshop process is explored, from basic concepts to the final master design.

Further, “…new libraries are often an eclectic assembly of design components…without a coherent framework for strategic intent” To overcome this, a qualitative “workshop process” was used and described in some detail, to include all stakeholders. Through this process all gain insight on issues outside their own areas of concern and likewise, all gain insight of others concerns. The stakeholders become part of the process and not just onlookers accepting a fait accompli, the final product, a concensus model of design. A pararell process is separate consultative meetings being the kernel of the working design is also essential as this is where the first principles are made into practicalities. Data such as visits, loans and various uses are important as this quantitative area then supports and fuses with the qualitative, supporting the initial move to refurbish or build. 

What are we looking for when it comes to design for use? This has to be the basis of any move to redesign libraries and their spaces, flexible spaces, fewer books, more digital access, a communal/social centre. One gets a sense that the process is lengthy, requires commitment from all for the betterment of the communal environment. The formal process has solid merit, particularly as there are varying inputs for a costly building.

Norman’s views (a Sydney based librarian) are broad, challenging and in the public domain, in that public libraries to survive, must be and are regenerating their roles, constantly repositioning themselves to take advantage and align themselves with their paying communities. The community (users) must be at the table, they cannot be ignored. The issues raised can be articulated for both tertiary and many school libraries, all finding themselves in a similar position. The many topics briefly discussed are realistic and intertwining throughout the article is the user. What does the user want from the design of spaces? How libraries are reimagining services and their place in society in general and in particular instances?

Perrault and Levesque’s small article begins with a quote from To kill a mockingbird, a text well known to most from secondary school. It is this connection that they use to look at library design from the point of view of the student. The term “empathic design” offers a means of empathy, putting oneself in place of another, such as organisations to better understand users’ needs.  The concept is taken from an earlier article and used in their article as a ”relatively low cost, low risk way to identify potentially critical customer needs”, one would think this applied in terms of time and finance. Again quantitative data is useful to add weight to change. Complementing this is the qualitative aspect, that is observing the user in the environment and how the user engages, what they do or don’t do.

They discuss a relatively easy five step process, in contrast to Nimmo’s detailed design process. “The empathic process offers a proactive and purposeful strategy to offer fully inclusive programs and services”. It is not articulated in any detail, but others a snap shot of its characteristic and if interested the reader is lead to investigate the original article.
Empathic design addresses unarticulated user needs – its strongest feature. This user centered approach becomes an intimate model as distinct from a more structured model. 

One gets the sense that library design of today is about legitimising the users, their use of the space, the services they require  and not so much of a collection. It is the users who are driving library use. This is a critical factor to remember at all stages of design and ultimately the practicalities of daily use. To be flexible enough in 10 or 20 years – like a built in wardrobe, so a library too must have built in flexibility. 

What are user needs, their experiences, how are they articulated, establishing a broad consensus for the final design is paramount and one can only wish that such detailed processes really infiltrate the design process so that users and libraries are one fit. 

These offerings provide solid insight and practical directions for all stakeholders to contribute and make the library experience an ever evolving and collaborative environment. Proactive connections, is the future for libraries and users.


Nimmo, Andrew. “An architect’s perspective – how to encourage genuine innovation in library design”. Australian Library Journal 61:3, (2012): 200-6.

Norman, Mark. “Frail, fatal, fundamental: the future of public libraries”. Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services 25:2, (2012): 94-100.

Perrault, Anne Marie & Levesque, Aimee M. “Caring for all students”. 7Knowledge Quest 40:4, (2012):16-7.

This article first appeared in Incite June/July 2013.

Edward Kostraby is a member of ALIA Research Committee and Head of Library, St Michael’s Grammar School, St Kilda, Victoria.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Collection development: An update for the digital world

Mary Anne Kennan

This article first appeared in InCite, August 2013

The theme of this issue is collection development. In volunteering for this column (LIS: Investigations) I thought a lot has probably happened in this space since I last actively thought about collection development in 2004 and it would be good to update. I was interested to see how much the increasing use of digital technologies may have changed the work of collection development, so I searched the ALIA /ProQuest member’s database under the terms “collection development” and digital. One of the many interesting findings was a review of a book by Maggie Fieldhouse and Audrey Marshall titled Collection development in the digital age (Holley 2013) that looks well worth a read. Holley’s review talks about the value of the book for those involved in collection development. For those such as me needing either an introduction or overview, Holley recommends the opening chapter “The concept of collection development in the digital world” (Corrall 2011). The chapter builds on research and case studies about collection development and the rest of this short article will focus on summarising some of the issues raised in that chapter which is available open access.

Corrall begins by emphasising the relatedness of the terms “library” and “collection” and teases out how our understanding of the term “collection development” has changed over time. While the term “collection development” has always included a planning component; and selection, acquisition and maintenance were key concepts; as resources sharing and the providing of access to resources beyond the library in the networked environment became increasingly common, some have argued for replacing the term collection development, with collection management – although as Corrall points out, there are some differences still between what we see as “development” and “management”. 

The chapter provides an excellent summary of how the increasing development and utilisation of digital technologies have played out in libraries from the late 60s to early 70s when libraries “introduced computers to improve the efficiency of day-to-day operations, particularly cataloguing and circulation” (p. 9); through to more innovative and “transformative” computer based services and with them, the associated shift from the concept of “ownership” to that of “access” and the need to find a balance between access and collection. 

Corrall then builds on Lynch’s (2000 in Corrall 2011) framework to illustrate how the shift over the last 50 years from local collections of predominantly print based materials to networked electronically delivered content. More recently Web or Library 2.0 content associated with social media and user-generated content, has seen libraries utilise collections not just for supporting current and future user information needs, but also for building communities. 

At the same time, libraries and publishers were developing collections by digitising their own content; commercial aggregators were emerging; and scholarly organisations began capturing and preserving their own research output (and increasingly other assets) in institutional repositories. However, the resources which may form a part of collections were, and are, continuing to change and include web pages, listervs, chat, blogs and wikis, where not only is there no print equivalent, but where the content may be user-generated and is being continually revised and edited – changed. 

As collections became more complex, library management systems, digital asset (or object) management systems, institutional repositories and hybrids of all of these, became more complex to manage hybrid and digital collections. As we consider how collection development will continue to evolve, we then ask the question: what do libraries via these systems try to achieve through their collections? Building on Buckland (1989; 1995 in Corrall 2011) and others, Corrall discusses the role of collections as archival (retention and preservation), dispensing (availability and access), bibliographic (organisation and identification),  and symbolic (based on value) resources. Corrall suggests that while format and location of material continues to change, the principle of developing and managing collections for current and future users needs remains relevant.
Whatever we think of the changes in library collection development and management as discussed in this chapter,  it is clear that the components of library collections, the ways we develop and manage them and how we think about them are evolving and continuing to evolve. Thus those of us responsible for collections need to be alert to technological changes and the needs of current and future users so we can prepare for “dealing with the collections of tomorrow” (Corrall 2011, p. 3).

Corrall, S. (2011) “The concept of collection development in the digital world” in Fieldhouse, M. & Marshall, A. (2011) Collection Development in the Digital Age London: Facet. (Distributed in the United States by Neal-Schuman, 2012).

Fieldhouse, M. & Marshall, A. (2011) Collection Development in the Digital Age London: Facet. (Distributed in the United States by Neal-Schuman, 2012). 

Holley, R. (2013) Review: Collection development in the Digital Age Library Resources & Technical Services 57 (1): 68-69.

Mary Anne Kennan is Senior Lecturer in the School of Information Studies at Charles Sturt University (CSU) and a Visiting Fellow in the School of Information Systems, Technology and Management at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Her research interests include scholarly communication and research data management, open access and institutional repositories. Her personal web page is at