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Ewan Gibson And Jennifer Peters, Seneca Libraries Sandbox

The Library Does That?

 One library’s journey to offer more than information literacy

On any given day at Seneca Libraries, you will find students, staff, and faculty getting creative: filming videos, experimenting with photography, and recording music. The Library has become a space for our college community to play with and explore technology, providing them with resources to help navigate digital concepts and tools and integrate them in their teaching and learning.

How did this happen?

For the past two years, Seneca Libraries has been supporting digital literacies at the college through The Sandbox. This initiative includes a suite of face-to-face workshops on topics such as:

  • creating animated and live action videos
  • infographics
  • awesome presentations
  • building websites
  • digital storytelling

Many of these have been integrated into the college curriculum and we currently deliver more than 80 workshops each semester. To date, we have had more than 10,000 participants.

The Sandbox website includes a suite of online modules that faculty can use independently with their students, using and remixing the content to suit their specific course goals. The Sandbox also provides a group of studio spaces for students to work on digital media assignments and for faculty and students to develop digital skills. In the past year, our studios have been booked more than 3,300 times.

There is also a demand for extracurricular activities in The Sandbox. Throughout the semester, students will come into the Sandbox to work on personal projects, such as rapping, music production, or photography. Currently we host two “meet-ups”, one for photography enthusiasts and one for people interested in music and audio engineering. Students and employees meet and share their passion for creative digital media. The meet-ups also allow students to become the teachers: an accounting student may also be an astral photographer or make beats; meet-ups give everyone a chance to share their skills with their peers and the wider Seneca community.

Ewan Gibson leads a workshop in the Seneca Libraries Sandbox
Ewan Gibson leads a workshop in the Seneca Libraries Sandbox

Why did this happen?

We know that libraries have always had the mandate to strengthen information literacy, but supporting digital literacies has become a logical extension of our traditional role.

More and more higher education is moving into the digital realm to deliver content to students. As faculty become more comfortable with technology, they start to realize the potential for digital scholarship. Our digital literacies program supports faculty and students who are assigning and completing digital projects.

As mentioned in the ALA Digital Literacy Task Force report “Digital Literacy, Libraries, and Public Policy” from January 2013, digital literacies have been the focus of public and school libraries for quite some time, while academic libraries have yet to become invested. Some might question an academic library’s role in this program, and perhaps call it feature creep. However, the success of our program demonstrates how this type of initiative can breathe new life into a library’s reputation and establish it as a key support for innovative education within a college or university.

What is the structure of The Sandbox?

The Sandbox is coordinated by two full-time employees (one faculty librarian and one staff). Support is provided by three additional staff members on a part-time, as-needed basis. Student staff are hired to monitor the studios during our open hours (35 hours per week).

Currently we teach face-to-face workshops at all four of the main Seneca campuses. We have studios at two campuses (soon to be three). In the near future, we will have studios at all four campuses. All of the studios are booked through our online booking calendar.

Faculty who are interested in developing digital teaching materials or assigning a digital assignment are encouraged to consult with Seneca’s Teaching and Learning Centre, and/or attend the Designing Digital Assignments workshop conducted collaboratively by The Sandbox and Teaching and Learning.

What does the future hold?

This initiative is still fairly young after less than three years, but there has been a tremendous response from students, faculty and administrators. Not only are they happy to get help gaining these new skills, they’re also excited to use digital projects to increase creativity and engagement in the classroom.

Our next step is to develop a sustainability strategy. We are trying new ways to help our already busy faculty strengthen their digital literacies so that they can support digital media projects with students. Working with Teaching and Learning, we would like to help faculty develop the ability to design an amazing digital assignment that is engaging and dynamic, while using appropriate, sustainable technology.

If the demand for The Sandbox during the last three years is any indication, the next generation of assignments for many programs will include some form of digital media. Logistically, the only way this can happen is if faculty are empowered to facilitate these types of projects independently.


Ewan Gibson is the Instructional Technologies Specialist at Seneca College Libraries. He helps co-ordinate the Sandbox, a multimedia facility and instruction program at Seneca Libraries, where he trains faculty, staff, and students on the creation of educational videos and multimedia projects. He can be reached at ewan.gibson[at]

Jennifer Peters is the Teaching and Learning Technologies Librarian at Seneca College Libraries, and a co-coordinator of the Seneca Sandbox (a digital media/maker lab). In a day she might shoot and edit videos for the library’s instruction program, build online tutorials for students or employees, assist faculty with using library resources in Blackboard, consult with faculty who want to assign digital projects, teach students and faculty how to create instructional videos or digital stories, or maybe teach students about copyright. She can be reached at jennifer.peters[at]


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