…and then the world

“where nothing we’ve actually seen has been mapped or outlined…”

Archive for December 2009


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Over the Australian summer, I’m working from the Scholars’ Centre in the UWA Reid Library in Perth, a few desks away from where I wrote the bulk of my honours thesis, hopefully writing and finishing various things that have been in the works for some time. While in Perth, as well as working on the phd, I have the opportunity to see what’s changed both in the city and here on campus (I spent five years here as an undergrad and a staff member before heading east to QUT), and to explore a little.

One major development at UWA that opened earlier this year is the new Science Library. Combining collections previously housed in separate buildings for Maths, Physical Sciences, Biology, or the Arts & Humanities library in the case of Geology, the library is an extension of the previous Physical Sciences library, but also a complete refit of the building. It is a really impressive construction and renovation project, with what looks like a decent balance between collaborative/social spaces on the ground floor with quiet and private zones on the upper levels. Of course, it is currently the summer recess, so the number of students using the new library at the moment is far fewer than would be in the middle of semester, but from the brief period I spent wandering the library yesterday, it certainly appears the very model of how new libraries should be designed. And I’m clearly not alone in this thinking:

Granted, many of the features on display are not new to other libraries or campuses – QUT do the displays of available computers rather well, for example – but it’s still pleasing when a new development turns out right. Or at least appears that way… One of the nice touches is the artwork found at the end of each shelf: a biographical poster of a scientist, with the words coloured to form a portrait of the scientist as well. Examples and a UWA news article can be found here , and of course it wouldn’t be UWA if one of the posters didn’t depict Barry Marshall.

Exploring the new Science Library reminded me of a project I came across on my trip around the US in October, which had slipped my mind after my return. While being shown around Seattle, I was introduced to the Seattle Central Library, where, behind the main librarian’s desk, is located a visualisation entitled ‘Making Visible the Invisible‘ (the image above is from George Legrady’s site, as I wasn’t able to take my own photo). The work of George Legrady, Andreas Schlegel, August Black, Mark Zifchock and Rama Hoetzlein, the visualisation is in four parts, providing different representations of data around title, keyword, format, and Dewey Decimal call number. The visualisation is also dynamic, presenting items that were recently checked out from the library system. It’s not a new project, being unveiled in 2005 and having been the subject of a post at VisualComplexity, but it’s a great example of informative, data-oriented visualisation in public spaces (and wouldn’t look out of place in other libraries). The previous links should provide more information on the project itself; as a bonus, Legrady also has a very nice visualisation as an overview to the Dewey Decimal System, showing each section and (presumably) the number of items the Seattle Public Library system holds/held in that section. Given that one of the other, non-work-related projects I’m involved in uses the Dewey Decimal system, it’s of particular interest to me, but the approaches and use of dynamic data are noteworthy too.

Written by Tim

15 December, 2009 at 1:41 pm