Physical Library Space

26Feb11

I have been thinking about why people go to the corporate library in this digital world. As people are social beings, that aspect of our human nature might be lost in the race to go digital. Again and again I was struck a common theme during a law library tour in Toronto last fall. Students and lawyers still go to the library to learn or research an issue. There are computers for quick training, large tables to spread out treatises, and big screen tv’s for webinars or other interactive training sessions. Kudos to Laurel Murdoch (Heenan Blaikie), Mary Saulig (Goodmans), and Michele Miles (Fasken Martin DuMoulin) for thoughtful design in their space planning.

Libraries still have a place in this world for people to come together to interact and work. I wouldn’t go as far as Jason Fried at TED talks about how people work, toxic elements like manager and meeetings, and dedicated quiet time like No Talk Thursdays. But Fried makes a good point about some people work best in quiet times (early in morning or weekends), or on planes or trains. I remember litigation lawyers who came to read the newspaper in the library, where they might get a chance to discuss their work, in an otherwise busy day when they might not take the time to do that. This was over 5 years ago without the distractions of Blackberries. My work is task based so I have busier and quieter times, so interruptions that Fried mentions happen, but more so if I was a reference librarian.  But, at a different stage in life when I was a student with poor concentration skills, I loved to study in the science reading room at the main library of University of British Columbia. Part of the reason was there was natural light, but the temperature was chilly so the conditions forced me to concentrate on reading.

Greg Lambert presented a talk on on the physical library space at the Ark conference on Best Practices & Management Strategies for Law Firm Library & Information Service Centers recently. One of his ideas is Water Cooler Fridays “where the library is set up to handle open discussions on any issue a lawyer wants to throw out to his or her peers.” I don’t totally agree with concept of  the library as only a space for uninterrupted work, as I embrace the social library as a gathering space to share ideas. But then our law library is incorporated into a massive combined lunch room/multifunctional meeting space with wraparound glass view of the Canada’s largest city.

– Brenda







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One Response to “Physical Library Space”

  1. 1 Karen

    I can’t believe you stole my idea!

    I was at the Ark conference where Greg Lambert talked about library space. If i understood him correctly, he would like to return the library to a “ssssh” zone, making it a space where lawyers can work uninterrupted.

    One of the other participants at the conference told me that she doesn’t have a physical library at all. Her collection has been distributed around the firm into the practice groups. She finds this is great at giving the library exposure within her firm, as upkeep to the print texts is done where people work. I’ve had this happen with my library, but on a more informal basis. One of my labour lawyers has swiped all the labour law books to keep in his office. Most of this practice group are located close to each other, so it works out okay.



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