In the wide open caverns of the still-being-constructed Taylor Family Digital Library, Minister of Industry Tony Clement donned a hard hat to deliver a brief press conference to a cadre of similarly be-hatted journalists and others.
The new, six-floor building, set to open in Fall 2010, will be a marked change from the current McKimmie Library Tower. Rather than floors and floors of books, the structure will focus upon providing students from around the province with access to digital resources and workspaces. University of Calgary president Dr. Harvey Weingarten said that this accurately reflects what students today expect.
"When I was an undergraduate -- I was in psychology -- and I had to write a paper, I would go into the psychology section of the library and I'd walk through the library stacks looking at the new books in the area," he said. "[Students] don't do that anymore. You go to your computer, you expect to be able to search things electronically, you expect stuff to be available electronically.
"A contemporary library nowadays, it's prime real estate. You don't use it for storing shelves and shelves of books, you use it to give people access to the information sources, to the data that they need and to a working environment where they can work collaboratively, do their projects."
Books no longer located on campus will by kept at the High Density Library being built near the U of C's veterinary school on the Spy Hill campus. Requested materials will be delivered to campus.
Clement's appearance followed two months after a joint federal-provincial funding announcement of $113 million to go towards construction of the TFDL and a new cogeneration plant to be built on campus.
The federal government's aid for the construction project comes from the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, part of the Harper government's broader stimulus package. Though it is aimed at addressing both deferred maintenance and capital projects, there has so far been no funding explicitly for the former at the U of C. This concerns the Students' Union.
"We think that the Taylor Family Digital Library and the cogeneration plant are excellent additions to our campus and our hope is that in the next round of applications for funding our university applies for deferred maintenance funding to actually fix existing learning spaces," said SU vice-president external Kay She.
Weingarten stated that, though there are a number of buildings requiring maintenance, the recent funding has been used for this in some cases. Spaces will be refurbished around the TFDL and Science A and Engineering will receive some work as part of the Energy. Environment. Experiential Learning. project.
A second round of funding from the Knowledge Infrastructure Program is being contemplated, said Clement, but noted it remains unclear what this additional funding would be directed towards.
"Obviously, as usually happens in these kinds of situations, there are more applications than there is money to go around, so we're carefully considering our approach," said Clement.