Have your say: What do you want in the library and archives of the future?

Queen’s encourages you to engage in the re-visioning of Queen’s Library & Archives campus network. Imagine your Queen’s Library & Archives of the future and help us build it.

Question 1: Library & Archives Master Plan of the Future

The Library & Archives Master Plan presents an extraordinary opportunity to consider the Queen’s Library & Archives network in new and exciting ways which better support changing technologies, teaching, learning and research environments today and in the future. What do you think the plan will look like?

Please share your ideas (below or via our feedback form).

3 thoughts on “Have your say: What do you want in the library and archives of the future?

  1. First of all I should give some background here. I started to work at Queen’s as a Library Technician at the end of September 1969. I well remember my introduction to my new job by George Henderson my new boss. George welcomed me to Queen’s, I was a graduate of McMaster, and went on to remark that this was a big day for Queen’s. I was starting to work there, and the Library was starting its first computerized cataloging project. I stayed at Queen’s until 2000 when I retired as an archivist and for the most part those were good years. On the other hand I have to admit that whatever my contributions to the University they could have never made a shadow of the difference that the introduction of computers has made to both the Library and the Archives.

    About the planning for the future, there are a number of things I might say but there are two ideas I think are most important and useful to think about.

    First of all I disapprove of the idea of amalgamating the two units. I have worked for many years in both institutions and have come to the realization that however much a casual observer might think they are much the same there is a basic difference that sets them apart. Libraries are subject based, Archives provenance based. The thinking is just different enough to make it difficult for a united staff and especially administration to work efficiently with the two bodies. Much better for the heads of each unit to report to some outside source, VP Academic it was in my day, then to have an internal head trying to balance the needs of each discipline. I am well awaire that this has been done in many places, the National Archives and Library, and McMaster University to name just two. It looks like a good and efficient way to do things from a bureaucratic point of view but if Queen’s wishes, as it always had since I have known Queen’s, have world leading Archives and Library it would be better advised, in my mind, to keep the internal administration of these two bodies separate.

    My second point is about space in the Archives. Over the years I have searched through and processed the papers of many academics. To be polite these individuals are almost always what are sometimes called “good enough” professors, perfectly adequate for their tasks and the university’s needs. But few of the staff at Queen’s, or virtually any other university I have known, manages to rise above the level of second class thinkers. Few can claim really original thought, as one commentator put it they are adept at crawling across the frontiers of human knowledge with a hand lens. Most are anxious to leave their papers to Queen’s, should they be honest with themselves, not because they
    think their work is of undying value but because they know there is a good tax credit at hand. With that in mind they make sure that whatever quality they pass on will be re-enforced with lots of quantity.

    To my mind the work of truly original thinkers merits careful preservation of the original manuscript. What one would give to see an original draft of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Or perhaps the original draft of Churchill’s “Blood Sweat and Tears” speech, which is probably in the archives of Churchill College Cambridge. There is in Queen’s Archives similar material, Bliss Carmen, G.D. Roberts, John Buchan, Al Purdy and such things as business records and the like that justify the expense of their preservation in the original form.

    But a huge part of the storage area is given over to the care and preservation of the papers of “Good Enough Professors.” Because they are part of the university’s record I do not advocate destroying these records. On the other hand I think that the space could be better used for other material. The records of the professors could be either microfilmed or digitized and preserved much more efficiently than kept in their original form. Moreover, in my experience, nearly all of this material is on acid based paper and will eventually wither with time. Much better to start a program to transfer these records into a different medium now and save the bother later. The Archives is to all intents and purposes full now, the acquisitions program will have to be halted soon or costly new construction will be necessary. Why not put the money into a program like this? In the long run it could be much cheaper and provide the necessary space as well.

    I rest my case. Just what sort of program and into what different medium, microfilm or digital come immediately to my mind, I must leave to a younger more technologically savvy group of Archivists to recommend,

    Thank you for your consideration, Stewart Renfrew

    • Dear Stewart:

      Thank you for your comments. They will certainly be taken into consideration by both the LAMP Steering Group and the consulting firm (CS&P Architects, Inc.) engaged to guide this re-visioning process forward. I did wish to note that Queen’s University Archives is very fortunate and pleased to once more be working in collaboration with the Library to bring this important and exciting exercise to a fruitful and meaningful conclusion. I wanted to note too, that while digitizing faculty papers may be one space option to consider, and as a former archivist you would be well aware of this, the originals would still need to be retained and preserved.

      Many thanks again, Stewart, for your input, it is very much appreciated.

      Best wishes,
      Paul

      Paul Banfield, University Archivist

  2. Even as we imagine the library technology of the future, we can consolidate our efforts on the library technology that exists today.

    The History graduate students whom I’ve been talking to report that even one extra microfilm machine would do wonders in creating work efficiencies and help with time-to-completion.

    Also, self-checkout machines are the norm in many university libraries around the world. Yet they have been slow to come to Queen’s (the one at Stauffer is always broken, too). Using these machines effectively can improve access to the libraries.

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