They’re shifting from books to technology; from book learning to hands-on learning; from individual pursuits to group activities; from knowledge acquisition to broader life skills—all for the sake of the 21st Century. No, I’m not talking about schools; I’m talking about libraries.
According to an article in Education World, libraries
are increasingly developing their own makerspaces, or areas designated for students to build and create. More and more frequently, libraries are investing in 3D printers and similar advanced technology that can help students engage each other through activities rooted in innovation.
According to EdTech Magazine, the increase of makerspaces in libraries is helping the library fit into the modern world. "While the value of time spent tinkering may not be immediately apparent to some, makerspace proponents say hands-on work helps students hone their critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities, all while encouraging them to collaborate with peers. With those competencies in their toolkit, students can more easily navigate the STEM education network and, eventually, the workplace,” EdTech Magazine says.Nor do the similarities end here. Like schools, library are also assuming a broader social mission:
Stroll onto the Waukegan Public Library's airy main floor and you'll see gaggles of people entranced at banks of computers or getting counseled for the Affordable Care Act enrollment process. Kids are upstairs on overstuffed chairs looking through graphic novels or playing make-believe in the children's resource room. And homeless people are warming their bones on a day when the mercury might not get above 2 degrees.
The books are, effectively, beside the point at an institution where the mission isn't merely to promote literacy, but to improve lives. "Demographics are shifting, and the perception of the library is shifting — if we don't shift along with it, we're at risk of no longer being relevant," said Carmen Patlan, the Waukegan library's community engagement manager. "As books and readers go online, people wonder if libraries will still exist. What will they be for?For me, the library is a (mostly) quiet place to get work done during my daughter’s art classes. Those at nearby tables appear to be using the library in a similar way, or to read library books or to listen to library music CDs (with head phones). But is all that really “relevant”?
According to one news source:
Those who run, study and design libraries said the buildings have kept their relevance by being places for people to meet, take part in programs and learn how to use the electronic devices that access the Internet.
Maybe few of us read books these days, and even fewer of us get the books we read from libraries. But there are still some people out there who relish the relative quiet of libraries—or at least of those sections of libraries that haven’t yet succumbed to the 21t century.