TIME published a very short article yesterday on the future of libraries, reporting on several ways "feisty librarians" are creatively responding to shrinking budgets and greater demand for services. I thought that non-librarians might be interested in seeing some examples of how libraries are trying to reinvent themselves. Perhaps there are even some ideas to take away for consideration.
Libraries are trying to meet people where they are. Bookmobiles have been around for ages, but now libraries are exploring some new outreach models. For example, the Free Library of Philadelphia set up library Hot Spots in underserved neighborhoods, which are equipped with computers, printers, and small reference collections. Also, last year the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (where I used to work!) opened a “library without walls” open only on the weekends at the popular Pittsburgh Public Market.
Libraries are offering new kinds of collections. It's obvious that libraries are expanding their ebook collections as demand rises, but a number of libraries now circulate things like cake pans, musical instruments, toys, and plots of land for organic gardening.
Libraries have makerspaces. Basically, these are spaces in the library, like the Fab Lab at the Fayetteville Free Library, that offer machines and software (like 3-D printers) for making things. Another cool example is Chicago’s YOUMedia lab, a space where teens can create podcasts or make videos or compose audio tracks in the recording studio.
Libraries are mobile. Text a Librarian is an increasingly common mobile reference service. In California, Contra Costa County Library has a campaign called Snap and Go, enabling smartphone users to download audiobooks via QR code without having to visit the library. And then there's an interesting mobile app from Scottsdale Public Library in Arizona called Gimme!, providing book suggestions to users.
So what do you think? Do any of these ideas have a future? Why or why not? Are any of them applicable to EdLab or The Gottesman Libraries @ Teachers College?