Libraries for the 21st Century
Albert Einstein once said, "the only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library." But is the library, an ancient institution that has existed since the birth of writing itself, becoming obsolete in the digital age? A once revered repository for human knowledge, libraries have played an important role in the advancement of civilizations throughout history.
Today, we have the world's knowledge literally at our fingertips. Ubiquitous connectivity and portable devices mean that students can read, research, collaborate and work anywhere at any time. Traditional publishing and printing are being turned on their head as information is recorded in multimedia formats, shared and distributed with ease. So what role does the library have today, particularly those located within our schools and universities?
Manage a collection of resources and develop student skills in accessing them
The traditional role of libraries endures in being a collection of resources, even if now the format of these resources is changing. The underlying purpose of the library however is not simply storing this information and knowledge but also in helping users access and process this information efficiently. This is ever-more relevant today when we are constantly suffering from information overload. Libraries and librarians can help students and teachers alike find the resources they need quickly and accurately - essential in combatting the threat of 'fake news.' This is important for students looking to continue into further education where independent research and learning skills are vital.
Provide engaging and welcoming space for learning, leisure and reading for pleasure
Encouraging the activity of reading for pleasure, especially in young people, is known to be highly beneficial in the long term. Libraries hold swathes of fiction and non-fiction for people to enjoy based on their personal interests or academic requirements. Not only can libraries help people better identify what they need as mentioned above, they should provide a comfortable and inviting forum for these resources to be absorbed and shared. Layouts should be diverse with flexible, multipurpose areas with varying degrees of noise levels. Furniture should be comfortable and versatile to allow people to spend prolonged periods of time researching or undertake peer-to-peer learning. Library spaces could also support elements of project-based and maker centred learning by offering virtual learning resources and maker spaces.
A destination space for the wider community
Many schools and colleges are looking to open their facilities outside of school hours, hiring out sports facilities and event spaces for use by the local community. A library equipped with both technology and content can be a very attractive destination. Whether it is a cross-departmental forum that may be difficult to accommodate in dedicated classrooms or to host guest speakers and seminars – libraries can become the beating heart of an educational institution. With well-resourced and well-staffed facilities, schools, colleges and universities can enhance the learning experience with a library that transcends the outdated idea of a 'warehouse of books.' A library should be a vibrant, interactive and refined destination where ideas are born, analysed and shared amongst the students who will go on to form the workforce of our evolving knowledge-based economy.