When students were asked what they’d like to see more of at Milner Library, the answer was surprising.
Outlets. No one said books, and a wander through the six floors tells you why…
This is an amazing article from the Illinois State University’s Milner Library about how they are changing the library’s physical space and services offered to adapt to changing student patron needs. The Milner is among the front runners of libraries that I am familiar with in fundamentally changing the concept of what a library is and how it can best support the research needs of undergraduates.
On a personal note, at the PMA Library we’re currently putting together a report on what our physical space provides for students and what it lacks, and outlets is at the very top of the list of things we desperately want!
In the immortal words of Boromir:
I think that one of the most important things that libraries can do right now is begin to assess exactly what their patrons really need. One of the best and most inspiring stories of libraries that exist with their community’s real needs in mind is that of the new Canada Water Library, which was built at the cost of £14 million by Southwark (London, UK) Council. Faced with the closure altogether of several libraries across Southwark—a borough which covers much of London on the south side of the Thames—members of the community spoke out:
“Our libraries have been well managed over a long period of time and what we’ve managed to do is listen to people. Over 6,000 people said they would rather we did things like reduce hours or use volunteers than close libraries. That was enough people saying libraries were important.” (From: “Super Library in Southwark Opens Its Doors”)
The library will hold 40,000 books, but it also has a variety of community spaces such as a café, meeting rooms, and a small community theater. The library even incorporates an entrance to the Canada Water London Underground tube station, so that patrons can easily access the library and its resources without having to go outside. By listening to the needs of the Canada Water community, Southwark Council and its library staff are providing a building that provides not only books for education and pleasure, but meeting spaces, access to the Internet, and a community space that is by and for the local community.
What is the library of the future? In my opinion, the librarians, archivists, and curators of the future must directly engage with their local community to provide institutions that respond to the actual needs of its patrons, not the perceived or idealized needs as dictated by archaic library science theory and philosophy. The library, archive, and museum of the future should incorporate more than the traditional analogue collections generally associated with these institutions, but it should also be wary of rejecting these traditional collections for digital-only resources. Above all, libraries, archives, and museums should embrace and respond to their communities’ needs and desires.