New Law Libraries

I’m going to what looks to be a fantastic ABA conference on law school facilities: “Bricks, Bytes and Continuous Renovation” in Seattle in late March. Its very timely for us as Osgoode is hoping to engage in a major renovation programme in the next couple of years, and the library will be a verybig part of that. My question for Slawyers – all of you use law libraries I’m thinking – use your imaginations and tell me what features you’ve always wanted to see in a library. I’ve got a lot of ideas of course but it would be god to go to the conference with as big a mental ‘shopping list’ as possible.


  1. Making wireless internet available in the public areas should be pretty high up on the list, if you don’t already have that in place. Desks and tables with electical outlets, with lots of room for both laptops and books and good task lighting.

    Working in a library where the shelves are fixed permanently to the walls, I’m an advocate of using flexible components for shelves and desks so that they can be reconfigured in the future as needed.

    What else?

  2. While I remain a strong advocate of wireless access, there was an interesting article in the Globe and mail this week regarding Lakehead’s decision to ban wireless on campus. Lakehead is believed to be the only major educational institution in Canada to do so.

    Lakehead says no way to wireless

  3. Interesting. Their concern was a health issue regarding radio waves. But I think the alternative, hard wiring, would produce lots of electromagnetic fields that would be of equal concern, as the reporter implied.

    Hmmm…I wonder if Lakehead has photocopiers, too? I figure with all the photocopying I did early in my career my body has probably absorbed more than its share of radiation!

    Which leads to the question of photocopy facilities for Nick’s facility….what sort of set-up should he have for that, if any?

  4. Wow! We’ve been wireless for quite a while – whole city’s are doing it, firstI’ve heard of such concerns. As to photocopiers? In 5 years I doubt we’ll have them – combination scanner/printer and who knows what else though.

  5. We have been wireless for some time as well and are in the process of expanding on that. I found one line in the article to be of particular interest, which stated that the decision was made by the president and that the Pres’s office did not offer any comment for the article. I wonder if they have banned cellphones as well…..

  6. Yes, I was kind of getting at future changes with photocopiers. How will you set them up now so you can repurpose the space with future photocopy/scanning/printing paradigms?

    I have wireless printing at home…perhaps that is something to work on?

    Speaking of cell phones, do you need a cell phone-free space, and a cell phone-friendly space? And to make this a circular thought…maybe in the future it will be our cell phones doing the scanning?

  7. Not sure about space configurations – something central co-located with the circulation or central ‘information’ desk I think. We’re already doing wireless printing successfully.

  8. On the topic of internet access, you might be interested in this boingboing post by Cory Doctorow, Montreal airport denies electricity to laptop users …

    “Alec Saunders reports that Montreal airport has put covers over its electrical outlets, presumably to stop people from charging their laptops and phones while travelling.” Follow the link to boingboing to read the rest of the post and some comments about similar problems at other airports

  9. What about training facilities? I saw a nifty training room in a large NYC law firm which had a smart board which allowed for projection of digital images, white board writing and drawing, and subsequent electronic capture of the white board image. Don’t tell me–you have one of those, too?

    The room was set up with a number of computers. It was arranged so that one-on-one teaching could take place in the room in addition to training of large numbers of people (not at the same time). The same room was also used for staff meetings and, in between all of this use, library clientele could use it as a quiet place to work on a computer.

    I thought it was a smart use of the training space.

  10. Actually our classrooms are very high-tech and getting more so – you may have read about the recent introduction of clickers for students to respond to questions and show results on screen. I’m aware of the technology you mention and its on the shopping list here.

  11. When I was a student at Toronto I did a project library renovation and building projects, and I interviewed the director of the E J Pratt Library, then just finished with an extensive renovation. As I did background reading his comments turned out to be fairly typical of library complaints post-renovation. His main trouble was that the library staff was not consulted in a structured, serious way about the renovations. In his opinion, this resulted in several serious flaws, including security (checking out), preservation (lights too close to stacks), and space for library processes. He spent quite a lot fixing these problems.

    To my mind, the renovation was extremely positive in terms of the ‘feel’ of the library, but the effect on staff is interesting. The literature seemed to say that without consultation, library staff is always displeased with renovations, which may point to the importance of consultation on morale as well.

    There is a lot of library building and renovation that goes on every year in North America. I believe it is American Libraries that does an annual december issue on building projects, and I think the average total expenditure is in the hundereds of millions. In spite of this, there is very little guidance on building projects in the library literature, and zero empirical studies.

  12. To chime in late… It’s just been announced that the city of Toronto will be flooded with WiFi. Hydro is apparently going to put up repeaters on every few hydro poles throughout the town, so the waves had better be benificent, or we’re all fried.