From The National Journal:
Forget what you know about the library of the 20th century. You know, those dark places with clunky microform machines fossilizing in the basement and with rows of encyclopedias standing, perfectly alphabetized, in denial of their obsolescence.
Forget all of that: The library as a warehouse of information is an outdated concept. The library of the 21st century is a community workshop, a hub filled with the tools of the knowledge economy.
“If we can’t shine in this environment, in this economy, shame on us,” says Corinne Hill, the director of library system in Chattanooga, Tenn.—a system that has thoroughly migrated into the current era.
The library of the 21st century still has books, but it also has 3-D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and spaces for conducting business meetings. It offers computer coding classes. It has advanced video- and audio-production software. All things that might and individual may find too expensive but can still benefit from using.
Last year, the downtown Chattanooga public library cleared out its entire fourth floor—14,000 square feet of former storage space—and opened its floor plan for a community collaboration space. It’s part public workshop, part technology petting zoo. But members of the community can also use the space to work on projects or try to launch a business.
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She shifted around the library’s $5.7 million budget, making room for the 3-D printers and vinyl cutters, and started stocking the shelves with more popular titles. So instead of spending $10,000 for access to little-used academic journals, the library purchased MakerBots (the 3-D printers) for around $2,000, a laser cutter for around $5,000, and a vinyl cutter for $3,000. With these moves, the library has rebranded itself as a coffee shop alternative/technology salon for the upwardly mobile. It even brews its own roast coffee, aptly named “shush.”
“With this space, what we’re trying to do is acknowledge that access to the commons is no longer a read-only environment,” says Meg Backus, who runs the library’s fourth floor.
Link to the rest at The National Journal and thanks to Barb for the tip.