“Quiet please!” These are words you will never hear echoed through the ground floor at UWA’s Reid Library again. The once silent, independent place of study has emerged into a vibrant, open, central learning and sharing hub for students, staff and the wider community.
Jill Benn, University Librarian, has witnessed one of the biggest shifts in the library sector during her 16-year career. However UWA has adapted to this new landscape, through a culture of innovation and enterprise, driving new concept libraries at the Reid, as well as in Medicine and Law.
Library-goers now have an environment that facilitates communication and access to a broad online collection as UWA responds to the global digital library trend.
“Who would‘ve thought that you would have access to the world’s best information in the palm of your hand, making many books on library shelves virtually obsolete, but I’m pleased that Reid’s rare book collection is generating more interest than ever.
“The digital age has brought with it emerging technologies. This isn’t necessarily negative it just means we adapt what we do.
“The aim of the ground floor refurbishment in Reid was to give students a positive experience by providing technology, facilities and shared working spaces that supported learning and socialising. Our flexible spaces can be transformed for group work, personal study or even lecture-style for workshops.
“Consultation with students throughout the design ensured we achieved a result that meets their needs and we are thrilled that since opening in August 2016 we have around 10,000 visits a day,” Jill said.
This is an increase of almost 75 per cent of library visitors as the space now offers a more diverse service to a wider range of visitors.
A collaboration of designers, builders and key partners completed the project in just 18 months, breathing new life into the 53-year-old heritage listed building.
“We are proud that our library has entered the 21st century and the disruptive technology age. Instead of being an archive, it’s a space for collaboration, exploration, creation and knowledge co-construction. It’s exceeded our expectations of what a library can do," Jill said.
While Librarians have undergone a massive transformation in skills required for the job, Jill adds that their service culture hasn’t changed.
“We work side-by-side students assisting them with their questions and assignments. Providing a space where students feel welcome and productive was of utmost importance to us.
“Some very happy parents tell me that finally their son or daughter is spending time on campus," Jill said.
Jill admits she has always had a thirst for knowledge and as a university student she realised that information had the power to change a person’s life.
Growing up in the farming community of Kojonup and attending boarding school from an early age, she learned the art of resilience, independence and courage.
She’s put these qualities to good use in her profession and earned recognition with an honourable mention in UWA’s IQ Innovation Awards.
It will be interesting for us all to see what comes next in the future of evolving libraries – this is just the start.