Future Smart Libraries

ARTICLE | Jul 20, 2016
By Mosman Library [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Future Smart” public libraries see challenges like underutilized space, shrinking circulations, and limited budgets as opportunities to innovate and transform the definition of this critical  community hub.  These libraries look and think of new ways to engage their communities in collaborative learning and make themselves a relevant place in the innovation economy.

The Scottsdale (AZ) Public Library has become a hot spot for the start-up community by partnering with Arizona State University to create the “Eureka Loft Scottsdale.”  Without a budget, the library repurposed space and furniture to provide free space for local entrepreneurs to work, learn, and make connections.  The Loft includes a new digital media lab for those who need to shoot videos, record podcasts or create marketing materials for their business or brand.  Grants were obtained to expand into teaching classes for startups in areas such as Social Media and Digital Marketing. Hear more about Scottsdale's work at Alliance OnDemand.

Likewise, the Hillsborough County (FL) Public Library has “The Hive” and Edmonton (AB) the “EPL Makerspace,” which both offer a variety of collaborative workspaces and tools in a creative and collaborative environment where ideas are shared, expanded and brought to life.  The Hive includes a Flexspace, or flexible meeting space, with moveable furniture, projectors and seating for up to 75 people.  In addition, their Library Recording Studios provide tools and software for recording and editing audio/video projects. Cameras, green screens, microphones, and editing software are all available for free for those who have a valid library card.

The Arlington County (VA) Public Library used “Design Thinking,” to look at what they provide to the public and how they might do it differently and better, based on the publics’ interest and motivations.  They reached out to “Metro Renters” - population of 20s and 30s year olds not normally engaged in the library system, to build a new and strong advocacy group.   Their forward-looking goal is to extend the library brand in “pop-up” or temporary spaces in developing business districts and neighborhoods.” Plans include a 2,000 SF Incubation and Small Business Center.

Many other public libraries are looking at “Future Smart” ways to facilitate learning and community.  The Palm Harbor (FL) Library partnered with St. Petersburg College’s Tarpon Springs’ campus to hold the Anime and Comics Enthusiast Convention.  The two-day annual event includes a how to self-publish workshop, academic presentations on Anime culture, costume contests and gaming opportunities.

In Duluth, MN the public library offers a seed-lending program.  Starting with an initial partnership with the Institute for a Sustainable Future, the library provides residents seeds that can be grown into fresh vegetables, eaten, re-harvested and then donated back to the library where the process starts all over again.  Participants enjoy free access to high quality food crop seeds along with information to increase their knowledge of agriculture.

The Richardson (TX) Public Library has a 3D printer that uses computer-aided design (CAD) software to print three-dimensional plastic objects; classes for 3-D printer are provided as well.  The Auburn (AL) Public Library offers classes on Bi-Lingual Parenting; West Hartford (CT) holds conversational English classes for immigrants; Edmonton (AB, Canada) offers “settlement services” for refugees and newcomers to Canada.

Libraries have always been a central resource for continuous learning.  These are just a few example of public libraries paving the path forward.

To learn more about the “Future Smart” Library efforts in Scottsdale and Arlington County, you can purchase the Alliance for Innovation’s Webinar-on-Demand, Libraries 2.0: From Book Smart to Future SmartIn this session you will learn how to:

  • Leverage public libraries for the innovation economy through content and programming
  • Access to new ways to network and collaborate
  • Integrate jurisdictional strategic priorities

The panel, moderated by Frances O'Brien, Librarian with University of Tennessee - MTAS, included presentations by Colleen Miller, Library Assistant from City of Scottsdale and Diane Kresh, Director at Arlington County, VA.

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