Last updated: 27.02.14

Best libraries 'embracing digital'

Increasingly, the country's best libraries are marking themselves out from the competition by making forays into the digital world, offering a host of online resources to their patrons.

At the recent Guardian University Awards, which ranked the nation's top institutions on a variety of different factors, this was a clear theme to shine through when the spotlight was placed on these repositories of knowledge.

The winning library, Manchester University's new Alan Gilbert Learning Commons (AGLC) building, is a monument to this modernist ideal: all sharp angles, steel and glass. But the philosophy is more than skin deep and an appreciation of technology is what lies at its heart.

This sense of democracy of knowledge - brought about by the digitalisation of information - also extends throughout the project. It is one of few such establishments to have been created with the students who frequent its impressive halls heavily involved in its initial design.

The AGLC has the honour of being the UK's first truly digital library, and this student input is said to have been crucial in ensuring that it was equipped with the latest technologies to allow for an understanding of "truly modern learning behaviours", according to the paper.

Flexibility is the keyword here - something echoed by our own online resources, which allow for virtual learning that can be easily fit around other schedules, appointments and commitments. 

This is equally true at the runner up, University of Lancaster's new library. It was designed in line with a wider shift in the prevailing culture at UCLan, with the insistence that course information, tuitions, reading lists, key resources and lecture materials all be made available online. The creation of digital channels also allows for the provision of student feedback at any time.

That last point highlights one of the key benefits of placing learning online, allowing as this does a much more collaborative approach to learning in which the end users are able to easily feedback on the process - achieving the two-fold effect of improving courses for future users and ensuring that intelligence has been properly disseminated.