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Digital Library FAQs

Q. What is a digital library?

A. Today, regardless of how information is accessed, knowledge creation is largely digital. The Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) fully embraces this reality. It is designed for learning in the 21st century with cutting-edge technology that supports collaborative and experiential research and study.

In addition to 24/7 wireless access, the TFDL uses technology to improve library operations, support research and encourage learning in every corner of the building:

  • Touch technologies to facilitate creative and collaborative work in the libraryRadio Frequency Identification
  • (RFID) system increases the efficiency and quality of book service to students and faculty. Using RFID technology to get books back on the shelves faster, keep them in order and take our book services to the next level.
  • Furniture and overall technology infrastructure in the building support student use of mobile technologies everywhere in the building.
  • E-collections, we are continuing to purchase born-digital collections as well as digitizing as much as our collection as copyright allows us.

What makes the TFDL unique is that this impressive technology is also linked for the first time to the Library's collections of visual arts, rare books, and historical archives and artifacts, offering a wealth of research possibilities and the broadest possible cultural experience for students, faculty, and visitors.

Q. What is digitization?

A. The University of Calgary's Libraries and Cultural Resources has been a national leader in digitization, scanning-in more than 3 million pages and images since the late 1990s. Digital collections are created through the digital copying of original books, documents, images, audio and video and then adding cataloguing information to make them searchable on the Internet. This collection is well-used, with 269,000 people viewing nearly 10 million images last year alone.

The University of Calgary's digital collections include: the Alberta Airphoto Collection, Alberta Law Collection, Arctic Institute of North America Photographic Archives Collection, the Calgary Stampede History, Canadian Military Histories, the Dene Crafts Collection, Early Alberta Newspapers collection, the Fyke Collection of Afghan War Rugs and many more.

Yet the digital library is a much larger and inclusive concept than simply digitalization. Today, regardless of how information is accessed, knowledge creation is largely digital. The Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) is designed to fully embrace this reality.

Q. How is the space unique?

A. The building provides an abundance of natural light and good air flow thanks to the fresh air coming up from the floor and returned from the ceiling to provide people with a healthier work environment. LEED building standards require us to use a high percentage of fresh air over traditional building air systems.

The library offers a great variety of learning spaces – collaborative and individual – whatever is needed to achieve the best results. The furniture on the second floor Learning Commons is designed to let students create their own space. The chairs and tables are light and can be moved around and arranged as the students need them.

We have increased the number of desktop computers available to students, both PC and Mac computers. The furniture and wireless infrastructure support students use of their own laptops and mobile technologies in the library where users can access the internet everywhere in the building.

Q. How does it support research?

A. Because so much of today's work is digital, people require more digital space in which to work. On the first floor, the university installed dual-monitor computers on larger desks knowing that people are often working with several applications at one time. These dual monitor computers also support group work.

The TFDL is also equipped with large media walls on the first and second floors to provide extremely large surfaces where students can work from a touch table and project their research on large display surfaces for group work. Think of a spread sheet – a lot of space is required to see all of the data. The media walls provide flexibility to zoom in and out and scroll up and down in order to analyze the data, begin to identify trends and do comparative analysis on an over-sized digital surface.

Q. How does technology support collaborative learning?

A. A good example of how technology can support collaborative learning is the research park located on the fourth floor that can accommodate 120 people, or be divided into four smaller collaboration rooms. The research park includes not only a standard instruction podium and projector, but two 70-inch touch screens in each room as well to provide a secondary digital surface for instruction. The walls that are used to divide the room into four smaller rooms double as white boards enhancing the multi-surface instruction space.

ClassSpot, the software used to support the technology in the research park, allows instructors to have full control over all digital surfaces making the whole room a collaborative space that contributes to learning.

Q. What about fun?

A. The Students' Union Media Commons has been designed and equipped with technology to engage students in creating their own form of academic expression. The media commons offers 21 iMAC computers, 13 MacPro computers, and four sound-resistant editing suites with high-quality microphones and speakers for students to either listen to or record audio works.

The TFDL has the most comprehensive gaming collection in Canada which is supported by a special gaming area that features both contemporary and retro games from the 1970s and 1980s.

One of the most striking applications in this area is the new digital sphere from Global Imagination which allows for viewing information in the round versus only on flat surfaces. Not only can the digital sphere be used for visualizing real time weather patterns, flight locations, and astronomy, but surprisingly enough, the English and Creative Writing department is also excited about being able to create and explore new areas of expression on a round surface.

Q. How is this improving traditional library services?

A. The TFDL's Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system is a good example of how digital technologies are improving traditional library services. Before the university moved books into the TFDL, every book was tagged with a special RFID tag that allows staff to track its whereabouts. In the past, a book placed on the wrong shelf became a lost book. Staff can now use an RFID wand to go through the shelves and identify those books that are out of place. The TFDL is also equipped with automated book returns, self check-out machines, digital way-finding machines, and moveable stacks to save time and make it easier for users to find what they need.

Q. Won't the technology be obsolete as soon as it's installed?

A. Most of the technology planning was focused on strong infrastructure and future-proofing the building by installing such elements as fibre cabling, creating big pipes for new media and other rich files to transfer efficiently, and tremendous quantities of cellular and wireless antennas. The walls and floors are flexible so new infrastructure can be easily installed as they are developed, ensuring the building will support technology advancements throughout the life of the building.

Q. How does the Taylor Family Digital Library compare with other facilities?

A. There's really nothing to compare with what the University of Calgary offers through the TFDL. With the opening of the TFDL, the University of Calgary is the most technology-rich educational facility in North America and competes on a global scale for providing the most support for research and learning.