Digital library gets big bucks

The University of Calgary is on track to see a massive new digital library building by 2008 thanks to over $100 million in funding announced last week.

Alberta Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock was on campus Fri., March 31, on the eve of the U of C’s 40th anniversary, confirming that $113 million dollars will be allocated over the next three years for the Campus Calgary Digital Library.

In addition to a large new building beside the existing library, the project is a collaboration between Calgary area post-secondary institutions to allow students from each access to U of C’s collections.

U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten dedicated the building to the citizens of Calgary at the celebration event in a tent on the west side of MacKimmie Library Block.

“Today we are marking the start of the construction of an information complex that will significantly change how our students and the community access information,” said Weingarten. “This is a facility that will support a learning community of over 35,000 students.”

The presidents of Mount Royal College, SAIT, ACAD, Bow Valley College, Red Crow College on the Blood Reserve, Old Sun College, St. Mary’s University College and Nazarene Alliance University College were also on hand. The event was open to all, and included a video conference presentation with staff and faculty at both Bow Valley and MRC.

Construction is expected to begin next fall, although architects have yet to be hired. The project will be complete in 2008, and will form the cornerstone of the province-wide Lois Hole Campus Alberta Digital Library, said Hancock.

“It’s not just about print resources being digitized,” said Hancock. “It really, truly is about the future of learning. Because the CCDL will be the first of its kind in the country, it will serve as a model. This is bigger and broader than one institution.”

The digital library itself will be located on the site of the tent, and will free up approximately 10,000 square metres of space on campus for other uses by housing a number of existing services in the new building. The Learning Commons, Information Commons, Student Academic Services, Nickle Arts Museum, Library Archives and Special Collections will all be housed in the new space. Plans also include 500 new computer workstations, 18 seminar rooms, 35 new collaborative work rooms, an internet cafe and a new lounge space.

“The Alberta government is firmly committed to building a knowledge-based society,” said Hancock. “Today is the epitome of that example.”

Dr. Ann Davis, acting director of Information Resources, stressed building plans are very preliminary.

“To be quite candid, we’re not even sure where it’s going to go,” said Davis, adding that major changes are being looked at including moving the MacEwan Student Centre loading docks to the north side of the building and eliminating the road through the centre of campus.

Davis stressed that although the design and construction will be accomplished on a heightened timetable, the decision making process will be extremely thorough.

“Because we’re trying to fast-track it, we’ll lay the foundations before the top floor is designed,” she said. “We will have a very functional program.”

Davis said the planning committee is currently working through a 100-page document in order to hand it over to the architectural team.

“I really believe the U of C will be a world leader in this type of initiative,” she said.

The announcement culminated in a ground-breaking ceremony complete with fireworks.

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