Libraries Should Be What Users Want

“Libraries should be what users want—with a little help from librarians,” says Francine Fialkoff in a recent editorial in Library Journal. She talks about the Fayetteville Free Library in New York, where staff “have launched a Fab Lab for creation of physical products—and those can be as high-tech as what comes out of a 3-D MakerBot or as low-tech as the product and designs of a crochet group, which can be made into a book to inspire others.” Can you imagine your public library offering those kinds of services?


In Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library, (an American Library Association brief), libraries of the future are moving more toward “virtual” collections and services, more toward “creative “ spaces rather than collection spaces, and away from individual services to more “community” services and spaces. Those were the trends we had in mind in designing our Revitalized Library, as we reduced the physical collection and added more space for people sitting, studying alone or together, working in collaboration in study rooms, and in open spaces at work tables.

We’re also working on creation spaces and services. We have assisted fledgling authors to produce a born-digital novel, to print on demand, and to sell their works to a wider audience, perhaps even to a global market. Our computer lab will be the site of song-writer/ musician Deni Gauthier working with budding local talent to write and record original music.


Futurist Thomas Frey, in a great series on the future of public libraries, proposes a series of even more imaginative possibilities. He writes: “since the role of the library 20 years from now is still a mystery, we recommend that libraries put together creative spaces so staff members, library users, and the community at large can experiment and determine what ideas are drawing attention and getting traction. Some possible uses for these creative spaces include: band practice rooms, podcasting and vidcasting stations, Art studios, recording studios and theater-drama practice rooms. He also recommends “imagination” rooms. What do you think that may include?


Future theorists believe that it will be possible to archive and index qualities such as smell, taste, texture, vibration, and a host of other attributes. Libraries may become resources of these attributes and perhaps provide a “time capsule room” where you could find out what Mrs Baker’s award winning pie in 1954’s community fair smelled like.


What will the next generation of public libraries look like? Two decades ago it was predicted that the library as physical space was doomed. As the quantity and variety of technology and digital resources explode, some futurists are predicting the demise of the book, but libraries have a history of adapting…becoming whatever users want. Imagine.


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