On October 16th, I took part in The Digital Shift‘s 2013 Online Conference on the topic of “Reinventing Libraries,” and I learned a lot from leaders in the library and information science field about the newest trends and challenges that will end up reinventing libraries. This conference was especially helpful to attend because not only did it have over 30 downloadable flyers, pamphlets, and tools, it also was all free! I was able to attend the Posters session, the Opening Keynote, a presentation on new resources, and an information session on MOOCs. So what did I learn that was so important that it would reinvent a library?
The major theme mentioned throughout the conference was engaging the community. Over and over again, it was reiterated by the conference’s speakers that in order to survive, the library must reinvent itself through its roles in engaging the community. No longer can it be a passive institution that just provides the resources; it must also educate the community in how to use the resources and lead the community in using the resources to improve people’s lives.
Barbara Stripling, ALA president and one of the six presenters in the Opening Keynote, said that the community is filled with “marginalized people” facing “digital isolation” that has created a community filled with “divided people.” Libraries are progressing to a role in being the community’s facility of civic engagement; librarians are to facilitate conversation for all people online and face-to-face. Libraries do this by providing safe places, empowering people to reach their goals, and supporting literacy throughout life from birth to old age.
How can we reinvent libraries?
- Start conversations with community leaders about the library’s role in connecting the community.
- Engage the community through participatory activities.
- Maker Spaces
- Game-based learning
- IT Labs
- Recording Studios
- Promote equity, diversity, and intellectual freedom.
- Enable librarians to teach.
- Provide more content and more languages.
- Improve customer service.
- Encourage active collaboration with staff (in any library setting).
- Empower people to create, not just to consume, through publishing and production.
- Create opportunities for certification / authentication of educational experiences (i.e., badges).
What is needed for librarians to fill this role? Librarians need:
- To engage the community by finding the community’s key priorities. The priorities will then be the foundation for library services to be built around.
- Problem solving skills, a focus on scholarship, and the ability to work through challenges.
- To be willing to fail. It takes courage to reinvent a library, and failure is part of the process.
- To try new things and work through complications.
- Digital skills AND traditional skills.
- To teach dispositions: grits; perseverance; determination, and flexibility.
- To develop a deep knowledge of how people learn (learning styles).
While it is hard to say what the future of libraries will be, the Digital Shift’s 2013 conference proves that librarians can take charge in creating it – while engaging the community. For more information about the Digital Shift, visit: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/08/future-of-libraries/digitals-shifting-standards/ and http://www.slj.com/author/the-digital-shift/.