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Library as Community Center

Maybe I am behind the times here. It seems like everyone is talking around it, but no one wants to say it out right. Is the library, at this point, a community center or at least on its way to being one?

I took a look at the Miriam Webster’s definition of a library and it states, “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale”. Pretty outdated. Although, it gets the basic point across – we have resources that anyone can use for free. And then I looked up the definition of a community center, “a building or group of buildings for a community’s educational and recreational activities”. It seems that the library now does a mixture of both. A little less books a little more educational and recreational activities.  

One of these concepts is presented by Michael Stephens as the library representing the “People’s University” and describes it as “an open education resource or commons – or center for lifelong learning” (p. 3). I think the word library has become too limiting or at least needs a rebranding to further articulate what exactly the heart of librarianship is and what librarians strive to do for the community. As outlined in the Roskilde library strategy plan under lifelong learning, there is now a comprehensive outlook to learning. Not only are we providing resources to books, we are also providing the programming and scaffolding to explore to one’s desire.

In this ideal library community setting – let’s call it the Community Library Center, there is attached basketball courts, skate parks, computer labs, and multimedia rooms for guest speakers where patrons can come to participate in whatever way they see fit. Where librarians can assist in developing programming around doing a kickflip, how to shoot a ball into a hoop, email etiquette, and even how to do your own butchering (that was at Johnson County library). It is a true community of learning that is not limited by how much money you have, but instead on how much you are willing to learn.


  1. Lauren Dunn

    First off Cesar, I love your podcast style blog post! I don’t know if this sounds weird but you have a great voice for radio! If you ever start a library podcast count me in as one of your first subscribers!

    Secondly, I love your vision for a Community Library Center. I think it would inspire and expand our patron base and reach folks who otherwise wouldn’t seek us out, all by placing libraries in the heart of a community.

  2. Christina Perucci

    Cesar, I totally agree with Lauren! You definitely have a great podcast voice/style. Let us know when you launch;)
    I also love the community center model, and it makes total sense to rebrand libraries in this way. I’d love to see libraries at the center of a vibrant town square, collaborating with other players in the community. Reminds me of the Dokk1 set up quite a bit.

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