What you and I think of as a library is slowly being phased out. But is slowly the correct word? More and more libraries are creating space for things beyond books. For example, your local library might have a digital learning center. Does your library have a gaming area? How about a loud room? In a loud room public discussion and group projects are carried on.
It appears that libraries are remaking themselves in the face of a digital future that they see on the horizon. The main goal of libraries has not changed: a free place for the public to educate themselves. What is changing is the method of delivery of the resources. And it is changing drastically.
Currently many authors, publishing houses and librarians are fighting the efforts of the search engine giant Google to digitize the world’s books. Some librarians believe that physical books will be a small part of the libraries of the future. Other librarians believe that someday there will be no physical books in a library at all. One concept is to consider your local library as a community gathering center, rather than a warehouse of books.
What’s coming our way? Library 2.0. Some libraries have set up twitter feeds and text messaging services. Online social networks such as Facebook and MySpace are used for local conversations, and librarians use this information for group discussions and programs at the brick-and-mortar library.
Children have center stage at some libraries. Some libraries have multimedia space, where children can record videos and music. Other libraries have blogs dedicated to gaming and host online gaming tournaments.
At a library in Denmark, patrons can share digital news stories and view digital maps layered with facts. Children can take a book phone, which has an RFID tag, point it a book and hear a story.
How will you know when your local Library is a library 2.0? Here are some signs to look for. First, consider your librarian. Is she evolving into a debate moderator, Internet technology support giver or coordinator for community outreach? They’re also changing their names to information specialist or information scientists.
Another thing to look for is what your local library will call itself. Is your local library now a media space? If so, you probably have a Library 2.0
Naturally, there is tension among librarians and patrons. One group wants to assure a place for physical books, while the other group wants to diminish their role or eliminate them altogether in the library of the future.
In the past decade in the United States figures for public library usage are higher than in previous decades. But funding is down, because libraries are mainly funded by local governments, recently hit hard by the recession. Some fear that the availability of online books will be used as a reason to shut down libraries.
Libraries have always served two roles, self-education and as a community gathering place. But as books become more available on line, the library’s role as a community center will become more and more important.