I have a strong interest in public libraries, and I am apparently not alone. According to Pew Research Center (2014, March 18), only 4% of the U.S. population openly dislikes libraries. Another 14% can’t or don’t use them, but most of them still see libraries as a positive entity. But although other research from the Pew Research Center (2015, September 15) shows that books are still the main draw for libraries, there is a growing percentage of people who want to use the library as, well, space.

Evie Hemphill (2019, February 5) reports on a library that listened to their patrons’ desire for a space to use and unleashed the power of the hyperlinked library. The Scenic Regional Library District in Missouri employed programming of local interest, interactive spaces like escape rooms, and classes with practical application. This district’s libraries serve as an example of the “four spaces” model of public librarianship that Jakob Laerkes (2016, March 29) speaks of in a blog post from IFLA. According to the model, the need for experience, innovation, empowerment, and involvement can be met through four distinct spaces within a library. Spaces for inspiration, learning, meeting, and performance allow library patrons to view and use the library as a community hub. As Laerkes points out, this kind of modeling will meet future community needs, and the Scenic Regional Library District demonstrates how it can be achieved with a tight budget.

https://blogs.ifla.org/public-libraries/files/2016/03/fourspacemodel.png
Retrieved from: https://blogs.ifla.org/public-libraries/files/2016/03/fourspacemodel.png

Professor Michael Stephens’ blogpost (2020, March 6) also shows a perfect example of community engagement with a simple, relatively affordable interactive setpiece: a sticker dispenser. The coin-operated machine dispenses stickers made by local artists, enabling the creation of information, the sharing of that information, and the empowerment and encouragement to make more future information—all generated and powered by the community. Thinking outside the box like this demonstrates how more than one of the “four spaces” can be achieved through a single, thoughtful (and inexpensive!) idea.

On the other hand, the Dokk1 library shows the marvelous things that can happen with a sizable budget and a completely fresh building customized to its community’s needs. In a video posted by Public Libraries 2030 (2015, April 27), Marie Østergård speaks of how the design of Dokk1 involved an ongoing process of community engagement to integrate the specific needs of the community into the spaces within the new library. That is powerful stuff, and I think also shows how important project management is to the future of libraries.

The hyperlinked public library is inevitable, and the evidence is the growing number of institutions that are successfully living it. They are doing it. It is happening now. It’s happening in Denmark, it’s happening in Missouri, in Salt Lake City, and elsewhere. And Americans want it. They want a community space that allows for enlightenment, engagement, and empowerment. This post explored just a few examples of how this is already happening, and we, as future librarians, get to be a part of the big and important task of bringing the hyperlinked library to even more places.

References

Hemphill, E. (2019, February 5). A look at the evolving role – and shifting spaces – of today’s public libraries. St. Louis Public Radio. https://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/look-evolving-role-and-shifting-spaces-todays-public-libraries#stream/0

Laerkes, J. G. (2016, March 29). The four spaces of the public library. IFLA public libraries  section blog. https://blogs.ifla.org/public-libraries/2016/03/29/the-four-spaces-of-the-public-library/

Pew Research Center. (2014, March 18). A new way of looking at public library engagement in America. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2014/03/18/a-new-way-of-looking-at-public-library-engagement-in-america/

Pew Research Center. (2015, September 15). Chapter 1: Who uses libraries and what they do at their libraries. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/09/15/who-uses-libraries-and-what-they-do-at-their-libraries/

Public Libraries 2030. (2015, April 27). PL2020 Tour – Denmark: A knowledge hub for the community [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvFfbjs8aZo&feature=emb_logo

Stephens, M. (2020, March 6). Local artist sticker machine. INFO 287: The hyperlinked library. https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/blog/local-artist-sticker-machine/

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