Library of Birmingham at Be2Camp Brum 2010

Design for Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo architects

Be2camp Brum 2010 was loosely themed around libraries. A new building for Birmingham Central Library (where Be2camp Brum 2010 was held) is currently under construction and due to open in 2013 and the first three presentations at Be2camp Brum were concerned with how digital technologies are being integrated into the planning and construction process as well as into the library services and building itself.

Brian Gambles speaking at Be2camp Brum 2010 via Meshed Media

Brian Gambles, head of BCC Library Services, outlined the broad overview that is being taken to the use of digital technologies, emphasising that they are designing for maximum flexibility and adaptability and aiming not to be platform-specific as they assume that digital infrastructures and technologies will change over the lifetime of the building. Brian emphasised that the aim is to redefine and reimagine the relationship between library services, the library building and library users through digital technologies.

Tom Epps speaking at Be2camp Brum 2010 via Meshed Media

Tom Epps then spoke about one of the ways this is taking place. Alongside the construction of the new building,  a virtual model of the new Library of Birmingham building is being built in Second Life. This model is to scale and Tom spoke about how this is providing a better sense of the relationships between different elements of the building than it’s possible to get from architects plans or non-interactive 3-D model. Once the Second Life Library goes live it will also be used for public consultations to gather people’s opinions on the new design via polls and feedback points, and possibly to host events paralleling the physical Library building and services. (And it was so impressive that the whole presentation was done while we were being expertly navigated live around the Second Life model live!)

We then heard a little about the role of mobile technologies in re-imagining library services (I’m afraid I didn’t get the speaker’s name) and a description of how library services and activities will be augmented by mobile personal devices and applications.

All in all it was great to hear that the Library are taking such an imaginative approach to the integration of digital technologies and working on platform neutrality and personalised services that open up great library resources – such as their archive of photographs – to city residents and library visitors. I really hope that this emphasis on the experience people have in the library will continue to inform all of their decisions. And I was only slightly disturbed that their Second Life model which professes to show how the library will be doesn’t actually have any people in it yet…