UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 7 | Jul. 8, 2004

Books and Mortar -- and a Whole Lot More

The $60 million Irving K. Barber Learning Centre takes shape

By Erica Smishek

Her title reads University Librarian, but Catherine Quinlan could be mistaken for a kind of super project manager / contractor these days.

Outside her Main Library window, a construction crew combines concrete and metal for what will become the north wing of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC. Inside her book-lined office, architectural and schematic designs illustrate how the historic Main Library will be transformed into a leading-edge education and research facility that will act as a portal to information resources, services and technology for users at UBC, across the province and beyond.

“Libraries have been affected by technology for thousands of years,” says Quinlan.

“Libraries have always been about helping people find information. We concentrate not only on getting you the information you need, but also teaching you how to find it and how to evaluate it -- how to be a critical consumer of information. You can’t assume that just because you found the information on the Internet that it is credible. You have to be able to evaluate the information provided as well as the source that is providing that information.”

As managing director for the $60-million Learning Centre, Quinlan’s responsibilities are massive. After first envisioning an interdisciplinary and technologically sophisticated building that will provide 15 years of growth space for UBC Library’s print collection, she now works with the committee steering the project through development.

Irving K. Barber is as committed as Quinlan to the development of the Centre and its programs. A UBC alumnus and founding chairman of Slocan Forest Products who donated $20 million for the Learning Centre, he was the first to envision a facility accessible to all British Columbians, whether they visit in person, by phone or electronically, as well as to learners worldwide.

Together, they have studied best practices at other North American institutions and visited 16 communities across B.C. to exchange ideas that will shape the facility’s programming and services. A draft operational plan is anticipated early this fall for review.

And let’s not forget the fine details. Following a recent visit to the just-opened Seattle Public Library, where library planners are already planning changes to the facility, Quinlan’s current concern is the tables that must be purchased for the Learning Centre. She wants to ensure they are flexible as well as capable of concealing the wires and conduit connected to computers that will sit on them.

When complete, the Learning Centre will be the first facility in Canada to integrate information resources and services and interdisciplinary learning support facilities under one roof.

The Centre will house smart classrooms, a wireless environment, open space that can be configured as computer labs, seminar rooms, distance learning support activities and some of UBC’s interdisciplinary learning programs such as Arts One and Science One. It will boast a laptop loan program for UBC and community users, Canada’ first automated storage and retrieval system to support the library’s print collection, and a fireproof and climate-controlled vault for the library’s rare books, archives and special collections.

Quinlan and her team have made steady progress since the facility was first announced in October 2002 with Barber’s gift, a $10 million contribution from the B.C. government and $30 million from UBC. While the bricks and mortar for the Learning Centre will take two more years to finish, innovative programs and services are already being offered.

“We can do things now -- things that are not dependent on a physical building being accessible,” says Simon Neame, co-ordinator of programs and services for the Learning Centre.

Five live webcasts, including the recent special UBC honorary degree ceremony for three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, have enabled people around the province to watch various events of interest.

And now, through eHelp, a virtual reference pilot project, people can ask experts for help without leaving their computers.

eHelp allows you to chat with an information specialist online, receive and send documents, co-browse databases and websites, and receive transcripts of your reference session directly to your email -- all from the comfort of home, lab, office or neighbourhood Internet café.

“We’re looking for activities and programs that mesh with our mandate,” says Neame. “It’s a very open slate.”

While they have started with programs and services for which they knew there was an interest, what will remain and what will be added in months and years ahead depends on what people, both on campus and throughout the province, will need.

“There is remarkable consistency in what we’re hearing from people so far,” says Quinlan. “People want access to more information resources, continuing education opportunities, professional development programs brought to them through the Learning Centre, business information for small business, and up-to-date topical and dependable information.”

Quinlan says the Learning Centre has broadened UBC Library’s thinking about what it can do not only as a university library but also as the province’s library.

“There is a shift in libraries everywhere,” says Neame. “This is giving us an opportunity to jump way ahead, to be out there and be a facility whose initiatives will have an impact on people here and across B.C.

“We want the Learning Centre to be a gateway for people online and for people who walk in. It should be a destination for the campus as well as the province, both virtually and in the physical sense.”

More Information

For more information see The Irving K. Barber Learning Centre Chronicle of Events

- - -  

Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.