Libraries aren’t what they used to be

The reasons for going to a library have changed in the age of Google, Wikipedia and YouTube. Libraries have responded to the newly ubiquitous digital information access environment by offering online access to their increasing amounts of digital information, and a more comprehensive range of digital services.

If your image of libraries is still of a place with endless racks of books and serenely quiet, then you need to visit one of today’s modernized libraries. I did that recently by visiting the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) at The University of Calgary to experience the new world first-hand. I found that digital materials have dramatically changed how libraries operate.

The Taylor Family Digital Library is where all information, whether digital or printed text, art slides or digital images, museum collections or archives, is easily accessed. It’s a place where you can also access the technical and reference help you need.


LabNEXT allows students and professors to experiment with various digital technologies that we definitely don’t associate with the classical library.

“The TFDL supports digital scholarship through a variety of services,” says Susan Powelson, deputy university librarian. “These services routinely help professors and students with research and production of learning materials.”

Visualization Studio

The Visualization Studio is designed to display high-resolution graphics and video on a room-sized (4.9 X 1.8 meter) screen using 15 rear projectors. “The large display, with its 35 million pixels, is an excellent resource for research collaboration or teaching,” says John Brosz, Ph.D., data visualization coordinator. “Viewing high-resolution images for detailed analysis, even with simple software, is more effective here than in any other classroom.”

Photo credit: The University of Calgary – Visualization Studio

One Button Studio

The One Button Studio offers equipment and software for creating video content quickly. It allows anyone with no technical background to shoot a video against a green screen.

Watch this video for a short introduction to the One Button Studio concept.

Photo credit: The University of Calgary – One Button Studio

Virtual Reality Studio

The Virtual Reality Studio is used to:

  1. Explore available virtual reality environments at room scale.
  2. Develop and test new environments and applications.

“Our VR spaces provide valuable access to Extended Reality (XR) tools for the university community,” says Julia Guy, MA, MLIS, Digital Projects Librarian. “Faculty, staff, and students can use our VR studio and VR development spaces to experiment with virtual reality, create digital art, visualize their research, and develop new immersive experiences for research and instruction.”

For example, you can use the studio to examine 3D scans of meteors or dinosaur fossils.

Photo credit: The University of Calgary – Virtual Reality Studio

Creator Technology

The available Makerspace and Media Creation Technology consists of the following:

  1. 3D printers
  2. Vinyl cutter
  3. Milling machine
  4. Button maker, sewing and embroidery machines
  5. Sound-proof Audio/Visual recording and editing suites
  6. Laser cutter
  7. High-performance PCs and MacPro workstations and a wide variety of software for 3D modelling, media creation and editing, GIS, and research and scientific computing.

“We’re pleased to offer this variety of technology to support learning,” says Claudette Cloutier, MLIS, Associate University Librarian, Facilities. “The machines and related software are used regularly to produce professional-quality artifacts, podcasts and videos.”

For a more detailed description of the Media Creation Technology can produce, please read the article at this link. An interactive Midjourney display in the LabNEXT space allows visitors to use AI to generate art based on a text description of the image you want to create.

Photo credit: The University of Calgary – Media Creation Technology

Archives and Special Collections

The university’s Archives and Special Collections provide access to over twelve kilometres of archival records and 230,000 books stored in the High-Density Library. The collections include multiple digital archives donated to the university for preservation, music collections, military and university history, and the Canadian Architectural Archives. You can try a search of the digital collections at this link.

Photo credit: The University of Calgary – High-Density Library

The EMI Music Canada collection, consisting of approximately 5,500 boxes of material including 40,000 audio and video recordings in nearly 40 formats, was acquired in 2016. “We’re excited to be the long-term custodian of this important Canadian cultural asset,” says Kathryn Ruddock, MLIS, director of digital services. “Our staff are digitizing this material to preserve it for posterity.”

The collection will be open to students, staff, faculty members, researchers, and the general public, soon.

Photo credit: The University of Calgary – Audio Visual Preservation Studio

The Taylor Family Digital Library at The University of Calgary has made great strides along the digital transformation path. Check out the digital services at your library for a 21st-century experience.


What experiences can you contribute to help others appreciate the relatively new digital libraries? We’d love to read your opinion. You can share that with us below. Select the checkmark for agreement or the X for disagreement. In either case, you’ll be asked if you also want to send your comments directly to our editorial team.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.

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