As I write this, I am in Philadelphia for the American Library Association's Annual Midwinter Conference, and the East Coast is preparing for polar vortex part two (brr!). Nonetheless, spring is coming, and with it, a welcome change from what has been the coldest and snowiest winter in recent memory.
Welcoming change. It could be the theme of this conference and reflects what is happening in public libraries. In communities both large and small across the country, libraries are redefining their role and purpose. While still providing traditional library services, such as the availability of print resources and quiet spaces to read and work, libraries have expanded their role and offerings to include innovative services that, rather than being cookie-cutter, are unique reflections of the communities they serve.
by Chuck Gibson
Libraries now provide unconventional collections of items for people to check out, including bicycles, baking pans, toys and fishing poles. About 200 libraries throughout the United States and Canada now serve as seed lending libraries. These libraries provide seeds for people to grow and harvest rare and heirloom plants, helping to diversify and maintain the local food supply.
Libraries are centers for innovation and exploration. The Fayetteville Free Public Library outside of Syracuse, New York is credited with being the first library to open a dedicated "makerspace" (a space dedicated to making or engineering objects, learning about design, building, etc.). Other libraries with makerspaces are popping up around the country.
Serving as business incubators, providing collaborative workspace and other amenities to startup companies and entrepreneurs, is another role being played by libraries.
So, what does this mean for Worthington Libraries?
A goal of our 2013-2015 Strategic Plan is "to redefine library service in our community and to serve as a model for libraries across the country." We have several opportunities to explore, including the possibility of opening a makerspace and/or business incubator in collaboration with the City of Worthington and Worthington Schools. We also want to utilize our physical space in new and different ways, including the development of an outdoor learning space at Northwest Library and, possibly, on land the Library owns on Sancus Boulevard adjacent to the Lazelle Woods Community Center.
Collaboration, conversation and community are key factors in these endeavors. Now, more than ever, the future of the public library will be guided by your vision and feedback about all the unique and different ways we could serve you.
For now, I look forward to warmer weather and to continuing this discussion!
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