The Four Spaces of Scholarship

This past week I had the opportunity to visit the new University of Alberta Digital Scholarship Centre located in Cameron Library. While I had spent my time exploring materials for public libraries, I still see similarities in these new spaces that have been created for students and faculty on the University campus.

Laerkes (2016) describes the four different overlapping spaces that public libraries should accommodate: the inspiration space, the learning space, the meeting space and the performance space. These four spaces often overlap rather than be separate areas within a library. During my visit to the Digital Scholarship Centre I noted that they had included all of these aspects into this new area of the library.

I went to the University of Alberta during my undergrad in the early 2000s. Though I didn’t spend as much time in the Science and Technology collections at Cameron Library, I was totally floored at how much the library had changed in 19 years. There is now a Starbucks right by the main entrance to the library on the main floor which is now bustling with student activity entering and leaving the library.

On the second-floor walking towards the Digital Scholarship Centre, we immediately see the library’s makerspace as an inspiring workshop with glass on all sides so those walking by can see what wonders are being created and be inspired for their own projects. They facility includes multiple 3D printers, 3D scanners and has a display case for recent class projects by a 400 level Design class’ designs for airplanes. This visually open lab serves to inspire others while also making the use of the lab into somewhat of a performance.

 They’ve similarly made a feature of their flagship meeting space which features a large touch capable visualization wall made up of 12 full HD screens (Digital Scholarship Centre, n.d.). This space has a large framed window onto the action visible as one enters the DSC space blending the purpose of this large meeting room with that of a performance space.

In addition to these large meeting spaces, there are wide variety of smaller group meeting spaces, group computer workstations, more sound proofed brainstorming/collaboration spaces and a digital sound booth for podcasting. Most of these spaces also offer digital displays and technology hook ups to allow for sharing of visualization and presentations.

They have blended the different aspects of learning and collaborating at a wide variety of scales into this new space and I was very pleased to see how bustling it was, like the rest of Cameron library, only a month after opening.


Digital Scholarship Centre (n.d.). Spaces. Retrieved from

Laerkes, J.G. (2016, March 29). The four spaces of the public library [Weblog post]. Retrieved from


5 thoughts on “The Four Spaces of Scholarship

  1. That visit sounds really exciting! The four spaces reminds me of the Hunt Library. Though it’s not a public library (it’s academic, but it is open to the public for tours), it has all of those types of spaces available for the students and definitely helps to be a more collaborative space.

    • Thanks Alice! It was really great to tour the new space and connect with the librarians who made it happen. I think this four space model could well be adapted for many different types of libraries and adapts quite well for academic spaces.

  2. What an amazing library space! The fact that so many people are using it just a month after opening really speaks to the planning and understanding of the university community that the designers had, and it looks like the changes the library made definitely paid off.

    • Yes! I was really struck by how quickly students had caught on to using this new kind of collaborative work space. Clearly these kinds of flexible spaces were needed on campus.

  3. I am happy you used the “Four Spaces” lens to look at the new digital scholarship centre. It’s fascinating to think about the academic library space in this way. The more I read the class blog this week, the more I realize how important collaboration space is to the hyperlinked library.

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