The Internet and global mobile technology have made it possible for libraries to reach people in rural and distressed communities in ways that were not possible before. Here are six institutions are that revolutionizing how we think of libraries.
Maarifa Centers — Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to expand access to information technology to the rural areas of East Africa. It has established 15 Maarifa Centers, or Knowledge Centers, in the countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Each Knowledge Center is comprised of either a room or a fabricated shipping container. Inside are computers with broadband Internet access as well as research materials. The centers are staffed with ALIN employees who are there to help the community residents learn how to use the technology. They are also there to help them expand the provided resources.
Veria Central Public Library – Northern Greece
Although the town of Veria in Northern Greece has only 50,000 residents, The Veria Central Public Library has been a pioneer in information technology since 1994. Its mobile library program brings library resources, including books, computers, and broadband Internet to the residents of the surrounding rural areas — about 130,000 people.
Additionally, it recently launched a new program known as the Magic Boxes. The Magic Boxes are in the area of the library designed for children. This area has computers with Internet access and a variety of digital media. The goal of the Magic Boxes program is to teach children the digital skills that they will need to succeed in the new economy.
New York Public Library – New York City, U.S.A
The New York Public Library has a service called ASK-NYPL, where a patron may call, text, or email questions to librarians and other staff about other library services, or get help with research. Although this service is designed for quick questions only, it does help busy people who don’t have time to come to the library and access the resources they need. More in-depth research assistance is available for a fee.
Contra Costa County Library – California, U.S.A
The Contra Costa County Library has a unique program called Library-a-Go-Go. It’s a completely automated library book vending machine. Library patrons just swipe their library cards in the machine’s card reader, select the book or books they want via the touch-screen, and the machine dispenses their choices.
Each unit can hold up to 400 books, and users may borrow up to three books at one time. Returning the books is just as simple: the patron just brings them back to the kiosk from which they borrowed them. Check out other innovative library programs like this one here.
Free Library at Philadelphia – Pennsylvania, U.S.A
The Free Library of Philadelphia sponsors Library Hotspots, a program that is similar to the Knowledge Centers in East Africa. Each hotspot includes several computers with broadband Internet access, a printer, and research materials from the library. Staff members are on-site to help community members. There are classes available, too. The hotspots exist throughout the Philadelphia area and are held in various buildings, from community centers to local churches.
Public Libraries all over the U.S.A. and Canada
Libraries throughout North America, are taking advantage of the digital media revolution. By downloading a simple application to their mobile devices or computers, anyone with a library card can access thousands of digital books, videos, and music for free. The service is made possible through cooperation between the libraries and OverDrive, a digital rights management and digital media repository firm.
From packing crates filled with technology to on-demand digital access, public libraries are changing with the times. No longer constrained by geography, these institutions are bringing their resources wherever people live.