Libraries reinvent themselves for the 21st century

Library leaders are adapting to the shift from physical to digital services by re-imagining the library as an engaged community centre.

13 December 2013

In a feature in the Chicago Tribune, reprinted from Printers Row Journal, Tom Mullaney examines how the role of librarians is being re-branded to reflect their expertise as content curators and trusted navigators in an ever-expanding ocean of information — in whatever format it may exist.

He focuses on a number of examples from across the USA to illustrate the changing use of space in public libraries, with more expansive, open spaces and a less formal approach to display and access. At Arlington Heights the 'Marketplace' there 'mimics a supermarket aisle, with 20,000 books, DVDs and music CDs. Books are divided by category — Cookbooks, Health, Jobs & Money and Trending — and shelved with covers, rather than spines, facing out. Although it occupies only 10 percent of floor space, Marketplace accounts for more than one-quarter of the library's 2.6 million circulation.'

'Another major trend in library design, digital studios, began as a way to entice a younger, digitally savvy audience. Now, library directors report, adults are flocking to them to convert old photographs and vinyl discs to digital formats and to create podcasts. Local businesses are using studios to make marketing videos.'

Libraries have begun to offer dedicated, tech-rich teen spaces, after-school study and homework programmes as libraries establish their place as learning centres and gateways to lifelong learning - and move towards a greater engagement with their communities.

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