As libraries anticipate and explore new possibilities for the future, there are three areas that should be focused on for a successful transition; people, places, and objects. Libraries have always desired to reach out to their users, but in the past this involved library buildings that had to be visited in person which were filled with row after row of books and little space left for anything other than reading. With advances in technology libraries have the opportunity to meet user needs in interesting and varied ways.
Technology has and will continue to transform people’s lives. Libraries have a role to play in this transformation. Transitional times, like today, can be very chaotic and frightening. Libraries must support and work with users to recognize how changes will impact their lives. They can do this by helping people explore their dreams in a safe environment (Stephens, 2017) and by supporting the discovery of what is possible. Championing patron hopes and needs can initiate their own innovative process.
Libraries remain the gatekeepers to rich tapestries of information and knowledge. As the volume of web resources increases, libraries are charged with finding new ways to organize and disseminate research to make it easier to discover, digest, and track. –Horizon Report > 2017 Library Edition
Traditionally libraries have expected users to come to them. However, now that information is literally in the palm of one’s hand, this expectation must change. First, as users rely less on library spaces to access information, they are looking for better places to be productive and collaborate (Horizon Report, 2017). Reconfigured, inclusive spaces where users can experiment, learn, and grow should be a top priority for libraries.
We are really shifting and think of the library less as a place to warehouse books, and more of a place where you can come and interact with information in a new way and actually participate in a new experience. – Stacie Ledden, communications director with Anythink Libraries (Hood, 2014)
Second, libraries should be facilitating access to information anywhere and anytime. “Americans today are increasingly connected to the world of digital information while ‘on the go’ via smartphones and other mobile devices” (Pew, 2017). Changing needs through technological advancement should be viewed as a positive thing. It enables libraries to do what they’ve always wanted to do which is to reach and serve the needs of as many people as possible. It is just the method that has changed. Libraries should look for quick, intuitive ways users can have 24/7 access to learning opportunities.
Objects are the tools libraries can use to connect and meet the needs of their users. This can be done in a variety of ways. For example, in the article Mobile Learning Environments, by David Gagnon (2010), he illustrates how mobile devices can be used as interactive educational tools describing a location-based local history game for students to experience a historical event. “The goal of this design was to give students an active, experiential, embodied role in the events of history instead of just hearing about them.” This immersive educational experience would not be possible without a mobile device.
Another example is the use of beacon devices by some libraries. Beacon devices send location-triggered information to users who have downloaded an app and have Bluetooth technology enabled. Experts from beacon technology companies explain that libraries could use the devices to help “remind people of [the libraries’] importance in the community and showcase the wide range of services and resources they offer” (Sarmah, 2015).
Finally, in an attempt to expand and diversify their traditional role, many libraries are making use of less advanced objects to provide for users’ needs. Dubbed ‘The Library of Things” by Sacramento Public Library (Garrison, 2015), these are sewing machines, musical instruments, kitchen appliances, and tools such as hammers and drills that are made available for check out from the library. The idea is to provide objects that people may have need of but for various reasons would not consider purchasing. Libraries should be evaluating how objects can be utilized to transform user experiences.
People use libraries in order to transform their lives, which is another type of innovation—becoming a better version of yourself. Whether in public or academic libraries, the learning that occurs is transformational, and that has little to do with specific technology. It happens with books as well as computers, in conversations and through relationships. – Jeff Jacobs, Chief Information Officer, OCLC
Gagnon, D. (September 22, 2010) Mobile Learning Environments. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2010/9/mobile-learning-environments
Garrison, E. (February 1, 2015). Borrowing a sewing machine? Sacramento Public Library to start loaning more than books. Retrieved from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article8920145.html
Hood, G. (September 15, 2015). 5 ways Colorado libraries are going beyond books. Retrieved from http://www.kunc.org/post/5-ways-colorado-libraries-are-going-beyond-books#
Jacobs, J. (2015). Innovate anything. Next Space OCLC Newsletter. Retrieved from http://library.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15003coll11/id/23/rec/1
Pew Research Center (January 12, 2017) Mobile Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/
NMC Horizon Report > 2017 Library Edition (2017). Retrieved from http://nmc.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=fdfddcfb94886c9a42ff42780&id=436c3a4f09&e=95b0c22e94
Sarmah, S. (January 7, 2015) The internet of things plan to make libraries and museums awesomer. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3040451/elasticity/the-internet-of-things-plan-to-make-libraries-and-museums-awesomer
Stephens, M. (March 22, 2017). Chaos & caring. Retried from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2017/03/opinion/michael-stephens/chaos-caring-office-hours/#_
Anjanette Jones is a graduate student at San Jose State University in the School of Information. She lives at the foot of the breathtaking Wasatch mountain range in Orem, Utah, where she has been working as a reference librarian for over 15 years. She loves to keep a finger in every pot but spends much of her time improving the library website and planning a fabulous summer reading program for adults and teens, who deserve their own awesome program.