Building the library of the future
Ashley Halsey explores innovative technologies helping libraries to adapt and thrive in a digital world.
Although libraries have traditionally been dependent on print media, their integral mission has never been about books. Rather, libraries have been houses of information, and connecting users with technological trends is a vital role that libraries can play for their patrons.
In today’s increasingly digital world, libraries sit at the intersection of many people’s opportunities to experience, learn about and explore new technologies. Libraries of the future have an obligation to stay on top of technological trends and introduce new technologies in their spaces so as to expand the world of technology that library patrons have access to.
From the reconceptualisation of library space into new locations that encourage co-creation and teamwork to the application of cutting-edge technologies such as augmented reality and 3D printing, libraries are more important than ever in our increasingly digital world.
A makerspace entails the transformation of a physical location to create a space where people gather and share resources and knowledge, co-creating new systems together.
Without requiring any specific new technology, the creation of a makerspace requires the reconceptualising of physical space in a library. Introducing 3D printing tools, coding programs and computer science agendas in library markerspaces create areas that promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These space are incredibly valuable in modern libraries for encouraging intermediate and advanced library users down these technological pathways.
Libraries have long been domains of physical media, but in today’s increasingly digital world, finding ways to combine digital tools with print media is essential to libraries' adaptations.
Augmented reality is becoming increasingly possible thanks to high-tech packaging, and print media is no different. Preston Doyle, tech writer at Writinity and Researchpapersuk, says that “tools are now becoming available to project digital interfaces onto books, allowing the digital and material world to combine. Through augmented reality translation, note taking and searching all become possible in a way that they aren’t with traditional media, and the value to patrons of a libraries’ collection can grow exponentially.”
People now generate more information than ever before in their daily lives. The assimilation of this data into libraries’ strategies a potentially transformative effects on how libraries operate.
By utilising the data generated by their customers, libraries can gain an insight into users’ minds and provide improved services that are better connected to their communities’ needs. Libraries can better curate their resources to user’s needs through the analytics that big data allows. However, when gathering personal data on their customers, libraries need to take privacy concerns into account.
The internet of things
Increased connectivity of everyday devices to the internet is becoming the norm, generating the internet of things. This new network of objects, where data flows between physical devices, permits technological innovations in a library setting.
Mary Nguyen, blogger at Draft beyond and Last minute writing, suggests “that tracking library usage through the internet of things will become the norm, and even more nuanced library activity can become controlled through these networks such as maintaining the specific conditions required to maintain special collections”. The internet of things can enter library environments and streamline many processes.
Connecting with library patrons has always been an essential part of the library mission and mobile apps are now making it increasingly possible. Individuals are spending more time than ever on their mobile devices and expect more services to be available in this format, so it’s vital that the library of the future keeps up with these trends.
Apps can allow users to explore the library catalogue, renew books previously withdrawn, and create interactive opportunities for users to discover what’s on a library’s calendar. Moreover, as ebooks increasingly become a part of library collections, apps can allow remote withdrawal, ensuring physical resources aren’t stretched.
One valuable role that libraries play is introducing users to new science and technology, and 3D printing is a booming technology, the importance of which will only grow in the future. 3D printing can be adapted to a variety of disciplines, and as such more and more libraries are introducing them as part of the services they offer.
Engaging children in science and education is an important mission of many libraries, and 3D printers often delight children with the way they combine creativity with technology, permitting the crafting of new toys and other objects. Demonstrating to a library’s patrons that technology is at home in the library is a valuable tool for engaging with local communities and 3D printing can play a large role in that.