21st Century Libraries

We get a lot of questions about the future of libraries. One of the more common questions is, "Why do we need libraries when the trend is away from the printed page?" Libraries aren't just about books; instead they're about what you do with the knowledge you acquire through resources like books. Libraries have always changed, as we will continue to evolve as the changing nature of acquiring and sharing information provides many exciting opportunities for libraries and communities.

In the past, library spaces revolved around books and objects. Furniture was substantial and the focus was on the storage of physical resources. Today's libraries are flexible spaces designed around people, discovery and social interaction. Today's libraries also focus on measuring success through meaningful impact, rather than simply the output numbers libraries have relied on in the past.

So what does this modern library look like?

It's people focused. In the past, resources in a public library were defined as physical materials, such as books. Today resources are defined more broadly to include knowledge and expertise of individuals and organizations in the community. The public library creates a forum for community experts to share their knowledge.

Another significant shift is that information once moved in one direction; the citizen was the consumer of information. Today's library facilitates the participation of its citizens learning, creating, sharing and innovating, producing a cycle of knowledge that enriches the community.

Gone is the library as a gatekeeper of information, allowing access to community members. Now the library provides tools and training to access and evaluate information.

Public libraries were once a quiet place for consumption of information and contemplation. The library of the future provides multiple types of space to engage citizens and create experiences.

It's people friendly. The physical space of a library has long been thought of as institutional, however new library spaces are being created to be inspirational. Service desks are less grand and more approachable. In some cases, libraries are instituting roaming librarians who aren't anchored to a desk.

It's increasingly planned by people. Many changes in libraries of the 21st century are the result of people-driven input in planning, service creation and service evaluation. A good example of this is our new strategic plan.

The role of libraries is changing rapidly. Don't be mistaken, these changes don't mean the traditional services you know and love aren't important or will disappear. The new paradigm works hand in hand with the services you are familiar with, but also positions us to meet the new demands.