31st May 2010

Libraries of the future will focus less on storage space for books and more on virtual shelves and interactive spaces for real-world community engagement, says QUT new media researcher Associate Professor Marcus Foth.

Professor Foth, who is the inaugural recipient of the Australian Business Foundation's Research Fellowship on Innovation and Cultural Industries sponsored by the Aurora Foundation. He also leads the Urban Informatics Research Group at Queensland University of Technology's (QUT) Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation.

One of the team's projects is looking at how new media, such as digital stories and virtual worlds, can enrich community engagement in the urban planning process.

The study's partner organisation is the Sunshine Coast Regional Council which has just completed the design and construction of one of Queensland's newest libraries on the Sunshine Coast at Cooroy.

"The way we use libraries has changed. Libraries are community engagement centres. They are spaces where people meet locally and connect globally," Professor Foth said.

"The focus is on spaces for social interaction and so libraries have a variety of areas reflecting the needs of different age groups. The new Cooroy Library has, for example, a 'cave' area where young people have game consoles such as Wii and X-Box.

"For those who want to peruse book titles, interfaces such as Apple's new iBookstore that resemble traditional library shelving are becoming available or they can request an item and it can be accessed electronically on a mobile device such as the iPad, or delivered to the library."

As the Australian Business Foundation Research Fellow, Professor Foth is drawing together fresh tangible insights from the research his team is conducting on the changing role of libraries and cultural industries as community hubs. These new ideas will be published in a paper for the Foundation and used to foster wider community debate.

Australian Business Foundation chief executive Narelle Kennedy said the research fellowship program was part of the Foundation's aim to fulfil its mission as an advocate of well-researched, leading-edge ideas that went beyond mainstream thinking.

"The program has been designed to foster scholarship and investigation into the emerging issues likely to impact on Australia's business capabilities and global competitiveness," Ms Kennedy said.

"Each fellowship program runs over twelve months and is awarded to an outstanding individual who has demonstrated intellectual leadership in their field of expertise.

"Dr Foth founded the Urban Informatics Lab at QUT, and the fellowship will focus on how cultural institutions, design and arts organisations can drive innovation and sustainability in their operations, leadership and management skills and in community engagement."

The study at Cooroy is funded by the Australian Research Council. More information about the Urban Informatics Research Group at QUT can be found online at: http://www.urbaninformatics.net/

For more information about the Australian Business Foundation Fellowships, contact Clint McGilvray on (02) 9350 8102 or clint.mcgilvray@abfoundation.com.au

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1841 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au.

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