Friday, November 11, 2011

Library extreme makeover

As the shelves of books become less relevant there's plenty speculation about the future of the public library. The library's future roles of digital information hub and learning space are well discussed. Traditional librarian skills such as information literacy and source criticism will be even more essential in the future as the vast amount of information mushrooms. Libraries may well need to change their name to encompass their new roles as they turn into community centres, learning spaces, information centres and cultural arenas.

3D Printer at the Fab Lab by kakissel, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  3D printer by  kakissel 

However there may be other roles for libraries to adopt and one possible avenue is described in an article on the excellent news site Mind/Shift, The public library, completely reimagined. The article describes a library in the USA, Fayetteville Free Library, that has recently been completely rebuilt and, in addition to the roles described above, hs also taken on the role of techshop or as they say Fab lab. Here visitors can borrow equipment such as 3D printers to design and produce plastic shapes and designs or a laser cutter. Basically you can learn how to use expensive and new technical equipment with assistance at hand and develop new skills and new project ideas. The library becomes a workshop and the fundamental idea of stimulating culture and education takes on a new dimension.

In the past, books were seen as a luxury so libraries gave everyone access to that knowledge for free. Now that books are accessible for all libraries can instead offer public access to new technologies that are beyond the reach of the average citizen. Devices and tools that would otherwise only be available to employees of major companies can be tested by anyone and in this way new skills can be learned and new ways of using technology may be discovered.

Librarian Lauren Smedley, one of those responsible for building the new library in Fayetteville, says in the article:  

"... libraries aren’t just about books. They are about free access to information and to technology — and not just to reading books or using computers, but actually building and making things."

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