Libraries have historically been a community centerpiece. Yet as buildings age, and technology advances, the role of a library has fluctuated in importance and purpose.
The recent trend in co-working spaces may bode well for communities looking to invest in their local libraries. After all, the core purpose of a library was to house and lend books, as a means to share knowledge in an egalitarian manner for the good of the community. Libraries draw in new and young readers, students, adult bookworms, people who otherwise lack access to books or technology, as well as people to enjoy working in a communal space.
Co-working spaces have similar characteristics such as offering community-style workspace and be a hub of technology and knowledge. A recent article by Elizabeth Blair, With Modern Makeovers, America’s Libraries Are Branching Out, indicates that libraries are undergoing a transition period whereby co-working concepts are being applied. While technology is a key driver for change, technology is not consuming the re-invention process. And yes, books will continue to be a mainstay.
Ginnie Cooper, the chief librarian at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. is quoted as saying, “Everything in libraries that we talk about as new today has its roots at some other time. For example, I know writers who wrote their books at the library. I know people who started their business at the library. And what we realized was, if we were going to serve today’s people building economic value in their communities and being creative, we had to think about the world differently.”
The future of the library is being considered by library patrons and administrators alike. However, taking a page from how businesses grow and diversify, as well as trends like co-working and the latest in digital technologies, libraries are poised to regain and expand their position as a center of knowledge and innovation.