A note from the Dean
As you may have heard, changes are coming to the Inforum, making it a good time to update you on what’s going on there and how it fits with our vision for the Faculty of Information.
The proposed changes at the Inforum – which involve the creation of new study spaces and moving most of the onsite book collection next door to Robarts Library – are part of the ongoing revitalization of the entire Bissell Building. In August of 2017, after many months of work, a committee of faculty members, students and university staff submitted a master plan for the Faculty of Information Revitalization.
Among the six objectives laid out in the report, two are particularly relevant to this discussion: transform the Bissell Building into the hub of an expanded Faculty of Information and create lively busy spaces to help establish a sense of identity and enable possibilities for social and intellectual exchange.
Some of the recommendations made by the committee are longer term. A team of Toronto architects has been hired to carry out a feasibility study, which will investigate, among other things, the possibility of building an extra floor on the roof, creating a new entryway on Sussex Avenue, and replacing exterior concrete panels with windows.
In contrast, other recommendations, including the moving of the onsite book collection and the creation of new study spaces in the Inforum, can be implemented in time for the fall term.
The proposed plan for the Inforum
In order to create some 30 new study places, the plan calls for the bulk of the Inforum’s remaining onsite collection to be moved from its current location to next door at the Robarts Library, where it will remain easily and immediately accessible.
All course reserve books, which make up the majority of student book borrowings, will remain onsite at the Inforum. Additional books will be added to the course reserves as needed.
In formulating this plan, the Revitalization Committee took into account usage patterns since the hugely successful reopening of the Inforum and the streamlining of the onsite collection begun in 2014.
The Inforum is also an active lender of technology and equipment.
Accessing books at Robarts and other libraries
Faculty of Information students already take advantage of the extensive Robarts collection, borrowing more than twice as many books from there as from the onsite Inforum collection. For the minority of books that will be housed in other libraries – the UXD books, for example, will be located in the Engineering library – students will be able to readily borrow from and discover new and relevant collections.
As a result of this shift, alumni borrowing privileges will expand. Along with being able to borrow from the Inforum collection, alumni will now also have access to the entire Robarts collection of some four million books. The Faculty will use a daily document delivery service to retrieve book requests made by alumni and information professionals, who will then be able to use their books at the Inforum with no additional costs for borrowers.
Over the years, our collection has evolved to accommodate changing needs as has our partnership with the University of Toronto Libraries system as a whole. The Inforum coordinates with the larger UTL system on acquisitions and has begun to convert its classification of print holdings from Dewey to LC. The Faculty of Information also partners with UTL to oversee TALInt, the coveted Toronto Academic Libraries Internship. Housing the vast majority of our collection next door at Robarts is yet another example of this cooperation.
“I have spent my career ensuring access for all users, to the rich collections – both historic and modern – held by the U of T libraries,” says Inforum Interim Director Lari Langford. “Our collection will continue to be developed, new services to support alumni and visiting scholars will emerge, and course support services for instructors and students, which are moving to a new platform, will benefit from sharing the UTL collection and syllabus support service.”
Langford does not believe that shelving print holdings in a new location will have any negative impact. She notes that the Pharmacy, Rotman, Law, Dentistry, Engineering and Computer Science libraries have already moved much of their print holdings out of their spaces to support new programming and re-purposing of the space.
Heritage and Symbolism
In recognition of the historical importance of the print collection and its continued presence in the academic and working lives of students, faculty and alumni, the plan is to display course reserve books on special shelves lining the Inforum walls.
As we go about implementing changes and conducting the feasibility study, a smaller working committee will survey students about what types of study/work space would best meet their needs as well as about the longer term changes being considered for the building. A student representative will be asked to join the committee.
I have already met with MISC and representatives of MUSSA and the DSA to discuss the proposed changes and get feedback from their members. I will be meeting with FIAA early next month.
Throughout this process, I am committed to hearing from stakeholders with questions and concerns. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Dean, Faculty of Information