Stagnation is the mark of death. A slowing halt of progression and the decline of innovation and adaptation easily identify a cessation of relevance.
That is why the exciting evolution and constant re-evolution of libraries is why these formidable institutions will never become obsolete (despite what all those articles, blogs, and talking heads would have you believe for the last 10 years).
In a recent article, which focuses on teen services, but creates valuable discussion of libraries as a whole, Denise E. Agosto noted that it has become increasing necessarily for librarians and library staff to become, “…public educators and public libraries (to become) public education institutions, with a focus on public librarians as digital literacy educators.”
The creative forces at the Eugene Public Library (and libraries around the world) have recognized the technology needs of their patrons and begun to adapt their physical space to meet those varied needs of their patrons.
Three of the most exciting areas of the technology services at the EPL (Downtown Branch) were the introduction of dual-function furniture with technological capabilities, the MakerHub, and the MediaLab.
USB Port Tables and Towers of Power
The day that I interviewed Ms. Vik, the library had installed two new technology pieces to address the changing needs of patrons. The tables were placed around the parameter of the third floor of the library in between chairs. Patrons can use the tables as traditional side tables, but also to plug in phones and devices, as needed. As we walked around during the interview, we were both excited to see that many of them were already being utilized.
The Towers of Power (I hope you said that in the same powerful movie narration voice that I hear in my head when I read it – think Thor like) have a similar purpose and were placed in the center of circular seating. These locations would be ideal for patrons who needed to charge a device while enjoying or book, or, possibly, for patrons looking to watch a movie or work on a laptop in a less formal setting.
The MakerHub space is a specially designed room on the third floor where patrons (of all ages, but must be 10+ to work by yourself) can explore, create, learn, and collaborate. There are established tools and technology for robotics, electronics, sewing and textiles, paper crafts, 3-D printers, and so much more that can be used for their intended purpose or in a number of new (but safe and appropriate) ways as the maker sees fit.
Currently, the space is open 7 days a week from 1pm-5pm and requires a EPL library card. Staff are trained in certain areas, as well as volunteers, and there are occasionally hosted tutorials and workshops.
The greatest part about this space, outside of the REALLY cool toys, gadgets, and technology, is the encouragement of community. Makers can share there ideas and creations using whiteboards on the wall and the large table in the middle of the room encourages overlap of space (if desired) and creates a space for natural collaboration. This is an exciting space for patrons to continually discover and a service that can be appreciated by many patrons.
Equally exciting is the MediaLab next door. The same hours and rules apply as in the MakerHub, but the lab is all about computers. A few Macs and PC’s fill the desks and patrons can use a suite of products for digital creations. Some of the most popular uses are for photo editing with Photoshop, digitizing analog items, such as VHS tapes, and music recording and editing.
Some classes are provided on the technology in the MediaLab, but most of the patron use is self-directed. Resources, such as printed guides and online tutorials are available and easily accessible in the space, as well as reliance on other patrons through direct or indirect (whiteboard space) collaboration.
The flexibility showing by the EPL in response to patron needs is both exciting and harrowing (when considering implementation). These services add an incredible amount of the library space and continue to build on the trend of libraries becoming much more about the community they serve rather than the collections they hold.
Bonus: Library Automation
The small libraries I’ve had the opportunity to staff and be a patron of have not had automated library systems. I was excited when Lorie suggested a behind-the-scenes peek at the libraries automated system. I had a small efficient organization nerd moment stepping into the room with the RFID reading machines and zigzagging conveyor belts. I immediately starting considering the feasibility of such a system in my home library.