Libraries in the future?

November 19, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Things to think about

By Leigh Scaggs, Boyd County Public Library network administrator

Yes, libraries are changing, that is true. When you read about it, it’s frequently from a doom-and-gloom perspective, predicting the demise of the public library. libraries are early versions of web

But here at Boyd County Public Library, we know the reverse is true! BCPL is taking this time of transformation seriously and rapidly expanding our collections (books and music available online, online tutoring and language instruction) and services to reflect the changing needs of our patrons and the even more rapidly changing realities of technology.

Still, we all wonder … what’s going on out there in libraries racing into the future? I did a little research, and found some great examples of libraries embracing technology and change.

The University of Chicago, San Francisco State, and North Carolina State are all now using robot delivery of books to patrons. The systems vary, but essentially allow the libraries to devote more space to open areas for collaboration and technology by moving physical media to basements or adjacent areas. When a patron requests a book or DVD from a self-service kiosk the material is delivered to them by a robotic system that tracks the item by barcode.

Yonsei University in South Korea has 6,000 study spaces scattered throughout its library system, from simple desks to glass-enclosed pods to media spaces, loaded with the latest technology that can be reserved for use by anyone with a library card.

The Calgary Public Library created a Grow-a-Reader Early Literacy App that takes the interactive content from early literacy programs and delivers it to parents over mobile devices.

On a non-tech note, Daniel Akst, writing for, talks about the Alachua County Public Library in Florida addressing the declining availability of in-person access to government services by forming the Library Partnership, a facility that contains both a library and community services.

Some libraries facing declining revenues have come up with innovative ways to supplement their budget, like keeping their traditional “check so many items out for so many weeks and pay a fine if you’re late model,” and offering a Netflix-based model to those who want to purchase a “subscription.” In that case, the card holder can checkout three items at a time for $2.99 a month or 10 items for $8.99 and keep them as long as they want. If someone else requests an item checked out this way, the library purchases another copy. As someone who has been a Netflix customer for years, this sounds like a solid idea to raise additional funds.

Community partnerships are another innovative way libraries are keeping up with the changing times. The Howard County Library System outside Baltimore was named the Library Journal Library of the Year for 2013 because of its partnership with local schools. The library re-envisioned itself as a part of the community’s education system, and then went to the schools to demonstrate how they could enhance what the schools were doing. Now, the schools and library work closely to facilitate each other’s work and minimize the duplication of services. Among other things, an online tutoring service, similar to (which has been available to all BCPL patrons for several years now) is jointly funded by HCLS and the local schools.

Libraries are also innovative in the way they respond to crises in their communities. The Queens Library of New York, for example, opened a mobile library site in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to provide referral information and resources to locate shelter, food, and benefits.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the future of libraries in general and what new services and methods of delivery BCPL evolves over the coming years. Stay connected with us by visiting this website often, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Intstagram or Pinterest.


Leigh Scaggs

About Leigh Scaggs

A long time supporter of digital emancipation and proclaimer of obfuscatory testaments, I have been a proud supporter of bits and bytes for nearly 20 years. With that much chronological highway behind me I'm cognizant enough of the fact that advancing age does kill brain cells and observant enough to notice that it's only killing the weak ones.

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