The Future Now: LAM @ U of Calgary

Last Thursday, I was on the phone and online by 6:30am California time to see Tom Hickerson’s presentation “Convergence of Knowledge and Culture: Calgary’s Design for the Future,” webcast as part of our Distinguished Seminar Series. Calgary has gone further than most places in moving towards library, archive and museum (LAM) convergence: in 2006, a new department called “Libraries & Cultural Resources” administratively integrated a vast swath of the campus LAMs, and with the building of the Taylor Family Digital Library, many of these resources will physically come together in the same space in the very heart of Calgary University. Within the building, Tom envisions “an overlap so seamless that students won’t know who provided the service they’re consuming.”

Tom was careful to point out that proximity or a shared space are not a guarantee for convergence. Cross-departmental teams are currently working on detailed plans for collections, research, technology, staffing, etc. to ensure that the necessary cultural change happens alongside the plans for moving into the new building. One of Tom’s quotes I will remember: “As long as all budgets are separate, you are working against each other.” Among the key factors to set convergence on the right track he mentioned a top-down mandate, as well as an integrated management structure, both catalysts we also identified in our “Beyond the Silos of the LAMs” [pdf] report.

In between the lines, I also thought that I noticed some rather sizeable incentices: the Nickle Arts Museum, for example, will benefit from the move into the new facility by getting exposed to a stream of estimated foot-traffic of approximately 12K students/day right outside its space – one would imagine that this would increase the current visitorship of 25K/year significantly.

If you want to see how the future is built, you can watch the Taylor Family Digital Library grow on this webcam. If you want to see Tom Hickerson’s talk, the webcast should be linked to from here shortly.