How long has it been since you visited a library — the brick and mortar variety, that is? You might be surprised to find that it more closely resembles an Apple store than the cluttered building with floor-to-ceiling books that we enjoyed as children. Libraries are facing an identity crisis as the need for buildings full of books becomes less relevant to our lives.
However, the original premise of the traditional library — shared resources — is still highly relevant. It’s just a different set of resources that are critical today. Instead of offering books, periodicals and microfilm, libraries offer space for work, community activities and a chance to engage with the latest technology, from e-readers to 3-D printers. Some even have their own coffee shop!
The future of the library is not yet fully defined, but the possibilities seem infinite. So what will the library of tomorrow look like?
Some libraries are moving full speed ahead into the future. When the Digital Commons opened at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. in July, it featured a 3-D printer with a smart panel design, on-demand book binding machine, dozens of desktops, tables set up for folks bringing their own devices, a Skype station and a vast co-working space the library calls the “Dream Lab.”
And yes, libraries still have books. But you no longer have to wander through the dusty stacks to find the one you need. North Carolina State University’s Hunt Library features 100 group study rooms and technology-equipped spaces to aid learning, research and collaboration. The library boasts a robot-driven bookBot, an automated book-delivery system that holds up to 2 million volumes in one-ninth of the space of conventional shelving. The bookBot is 50 feet-wide by 160-feet long by 50-feet tall, and it delivers books in minutes through requests placed in the library’s online catalog.
The tomorrow’s library may not even be a place to go for stuff.
“In 2020, the public library will be a concept more than a place,” wrote Bill Ptacek, director of the King County Library system in Issaquah, Wash., in Library Journal. “The library will be more about what it does for people rather than what it has for people. As society evolves and more content becomes digital, people will access information in different ways.”
What is your prediction for the future of libraries?
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