The following information was provided to support a public library’s strategic planning effort. It will hopefully be beneficial for others.
In a time of constant change and uncertainty in the 21st century, the world is rapidly transitioning to a digital world. What will the library look like, IF most information, resources, and services become digitized? Where can libraries focus their efforts, energy, and resources? The accompanying articles identify key trends in public libraries that examine new ways to look at how the public library can meet community needs:
- Community members continue to need jobs and educated citizens. The library provides critical resources in this area already, and will continue to do so in the future. (Library as Community Builder for Jobs and Education, below; Knight Foundation)
- Community members want access to a digital library and the online world. Libraries are already doing this through access to eBooks and other digital content, Internet access, WiFi access, library websites, online catalogs, online databases, library mobile applications, and online collections. But even more access is desired! The specifics of access will change, but the Internet is here to stay. (Knight Foundation)
- Community members want to create and converse. They have expertise to share, but many don’t know where to begin. What does your community members want to create? Many libraries are exploring supporting this desire through offering performance spaces, maker spaces, digital creation labs, writing and publishing assistance, recording community history, digitization of community resources, community conversations, poetry nights, and much more). (Knight Foundation; Forbes Magazine)
Library as Community Builder for Jobs and Education
Key points: job searching, résumés, interviewing practice, job applications, skill building, career help, online course access, co-working, small business support, business partnerships, community education.
Over the last several years of economic recession, community members have turned to their library for help seeking jobs, applying for jobs, learning how to build a résumé, job interviewing, job fairs, and learning new skills for the market place. Libraries have delivered these services in a variety of ways, including offering online databases to patrons that focus on skills and job assistance (like LearningExpress, available through the State Library of Kansas), appointments with librarians for job application assistance, special open computer time for online job applications, working with local employers on job applications, and providing resources for career searches. Librarians have put together online resources for people searching for jobs.
Even as the country slowly comes out of recession, libraries will continue to be a vital community resource for jobs and skills building. Many still cannot afford Internet access, and job applications mostly take place online now. Internet at the library also allows people access to education opportunities, as courses and programs move online. The need to provide space for students, but especially adult learners, to study, access online courses, and take online tests, will only grow. Where else in the community can many of these people go?
Libraries are also offering spaces for people to co-work in or begin to run small businesses (Lawrence and Osawatomie libraries have created spaces for this). Libraries are offering business databases for small businesses to have access to important information. Librarians are partnering with economic development groups and small business coalitions to determine ways the librarians can assist businesses with their information needs.
Finally, libraries are doing what they have always done: offering community education events through programming and workshops, teaching computer skills, holding book discussions, providing health resources and much more. The skills that come out of these continuing education classes provide skills that the community may not otherwise acquire. (Junction City, Morrill (Hiawatha), and Salina Libraries are good examples of this).
These ideas are explored further in the Knight Foundation article, Exploring the role of the 21st century library in an age of e-books and online content.
Creation and Conversation
These ideas are explored further in the Knight Foundation article, Exploring the role of the 21st century library in an age of e-books and online content and in the Forbes Magazine article, First public library to create a Maker Space.