Libraries today are faced with a big decision. Do they advance forward, hand in hand with the modern digital area, or will they remain the same and stick with what they’ve done in the past? Three-quarters of Americans have access to the Internet, which provides instant information. For this reason, the underlying element which must be addressed within the library system is its ability to keep up with technology in terms of how efficiently this digital information can be accessed. As reported in Books, Libraries, and the Changing Digital Landscape, libraries are listening to the needs of the public and making critical changes in order to stay relevant in the eyes of modern education.
An Upsurge of Digital Laboratories
Libraries have always been a vital part of the community. In order for this to continue, libraries are expanding their digital resources in order to keep the public happy. For example, take a look at the new Digital Commons Center at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. People can test out a variety of the latest electronics such as the iPad mini, Kindle, Nook, and Windows 8 tablets. Eighty laptops and a Skype station are available for public use. One of the most popular items in these types of digital labs is the 3D printer, which is used in various trades.
Libraries are also adapting to needs for digital information by providing more educational help to the public. For example, libraries across the country are offering more individual assistance to those who are using certain technologies for the first time and are unfamiliar with how to proceed. For this reason, libraries are keeping up to date with the latest information technologies and how to educate the public on how to use them.
Providing Company Meeting Places
The changing face of modern libraries also includes creating expansive co-working spaces to accommodate the needs of small businesses. One such space in the Martin Luther King Jr. Library is called the “Dream Lab.” The Dream Lab is essentially a sprawling space which contains many different elements that might be needed by a company. Designed to be a supportive co-working environment, the Dream Lab in Washington D.C. is one of the first places of its kind in the public library system. It contains a digital bar, collaborative meeting rooms, and also what is known as a maker space.
Creating Maker Spaces
Libraries are clearing away old, unneeded bookshelves to make room for these new maker spaces. Maker spaces are designed to be a place where both old and new technologies are displayed. The purpose of doing this is so that patrons are able to develop new skills and share the skills they already have with others. This allows the public to learn new information through social interaction. As British writer Caitlin Moran puts it, “Libraries are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.” It appears libraries of today are striving to stay true to this ideal.
More than ever libraries are listening to the needs of the public and doing whatever they can to accommodate them. From creating elaborate digital laboratories to providing maker spaces and meeting places, libraries are working hard to remain relevant in a digital society. With these new elements in place, libraries of today may grow alongside technology and help educate the public in ways like never before.
For more information, visit USC’s Library and Information Science Online Degree Program.