by Cody Mudge
Chances are that even if you are a first-year student at Conestoga you’ve visited the library at some point during your tenure. In fact, it’s tough to walk by the library and find it to be the quiet, calm and mousey auditorium you see in the movies. Contrary to the clichés, Conestoga’s library is a bustling amalgamation of traditional printed content directed at specific program needs and computer systems designed to address any research requirement.
Libraries are becoming increasingly focused on digital content and expanding their offerings in the electronic space. This is merely the latest evolution for something that has been with humanity since the infancy of civilization. The first great civilizations on our planet were founded in Mesopotamia and one of the ways historians determine this is that they had, you guessed it, a vast library. The great ancient Library of Alexandria is a prime example of the loss of cultural knowledge as it became the victim of a fire set by Julius Caesar in 48 BCE. The decline of the Islamic Golden Age is said to have been started by the loss of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad when the Mongols sacked the city. However, most of these institutions have survived until today thanks to their flexibility and adaptability.
“There’s a perception that information on the Internet is easy to access and all that we need,” said Trish Weigel-Green, the manager of information literacy and resources at Conestoga’s Library Resource Centre (LCR).
Weigel-Green advises students that a simple Google search may not always yield the best results and that library staff, like herself, can open up a new world of possibilities. The information is out there, she said, you just need to be shown where to look.
Part of what makes a library great is that some of the work is already done for you. If you could avoid having to filter through the sources on a Wikipedia entry and instead go directly to the source, would you? This is where the LCR can help.
Conestoga’s library, like most other academic and public libraries, has shifted its focus to digital content whenever possible. This is a trend that has emerged over the last decade as the robustness of the Internet and electronic hardware has exponentially increased.
“We buy and focus on digital content whenever we can. That’s where we believe the future is heading and how we can best serve students,” Weigel-Green said.
It should come as no surprise that libraries are adapting to survive in a digital world just as they’ve adapted in the past. Surviving religious persecution, regime changes, the whims of monarchs, the printing press and the rise of literacy (by offering popular content alongside academic), these institutions are tough. Libraries were the original Netflix, where you could go to access a breadth of content that would be far beyond what any average individual could hope to amass.
Just as libraries revolutionized the average person’s access to information throughout history, so too has the Internet changed how we access and think about information. These two forces now combine to give the students of today an unprecedented amount of access to the information they need to succeed.
“We’re here to provide students with the opportunity to explore,” Weigel-Green said.