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The next generation of library

By Will Sloan


The Ryerson University Library is adapting to a changing landscape both in the building and online.

From one perspective, libraries are in a state of change: we’ve all heard about the so-called “death of books,” and have experienced the wealth of information available online. But from another perspective, the role of libraries has never changed at all. Reconciling these truths is a challenge the Ryerson University Library has been able to meet, with a steady stream of new technologies and initiatives to supplement the essential library experience.

But one thing remains clear: the physical library is the heart of the academic experience. In August, Ryerson librarian Dana Thomas attended the biennial Library Assessment Conference, where the poster she designed with fellow librarian Weina Wang on the correlation between academic library usage and student success was a people’s choice winner. In 2013 they started a research project to show that library use can directly impact achievement, and results have been encouraging.

According to a recent report by the Online Computer Library Centre, students strongly associate going to the library with getting work done. Thomas points out that at the Ryerson Library, students can find a range of space (group, study, silent) that meet their needs.

“It might seem counter-intuitive, but the physical library space does seem to be more important to our students today than it was a few years ago,” said Thomas. “We found, in comparing previous years’ LibQual survey data with our 2013 iteration, that students’ expectations surrounding the physical library are on the rise.”

To that end, the Ryerson Library is a living place, where regular workshops and events include upcoming programs on time management, critical reading skills, and citation management; and where students can book an appointment at the research help desk. “We are a hub, and we have access to a lot of services,” said Wang.

And yet, as Wang points out, “the Library has shifted its role from a traditional brick-and-mortal building to an online, 24/7 virtual space.” The library’s collection of 520,000 books and 1,300 print journal titles are now supplemented by 45,600 e-journals, and 165,000 e-books, plus article databases, indexes, catalogued websites, and electronic documents, and the Library has expanded its e-learning tutorials through Blackboard. The librarians also look forward to additional student study space available at the upcoming Student Learning Centre.

“We’re working on a project to make the e-learning portal come up whenever students open a laptop,” said Wang. “Not only do we provide a physical space, we’re also providing lots of services and resources online. We are sensitive of the community’s continuing expectations, and we’re readjusting our role to better meet our new generation’s needs.”

To explore the Library online, visit