In my Medical Librarianship class, part of our ongoing porfolio project is to draw up a floorplan for the library we are creating. What an eye-opening task this is! My colleague, Nate Hill, recently blogged a post about an open forum in Philadelphia - "Rethinking the Library" that touched a bit on what I would like to deal with in this post.
If print is dead (or at least tumbling out of the spotlight), if the digital divide is widening, if our nation is welcoming more and more people whose first language is not english, if everything that Pew's Future of the Internet says come true... our roles will be changing. No doubt. What also absolutely needs to happen - our physical spaces and buildings must change as well.
From Frieda Weise's 2004 Janet Doe Lecture: "We must advocate strongly the role for the library beyond the “storage facility,” and even the “access facility,” and focus attention on the many other place-centered activities and services that the library can support"
Now of course, with the poor economic outlook, funds for revamping or rebuilding library space will not be easy to come by. But really, how can we imagine shifting the focus of our collections and succeed in meeting our changing objectives in a space designed for other purposes? Rows and rows of shelving for print materials, a small and cramped programming area (or maybe none at all?), no space for more than a handfull of computers, no high-tech classrooms for demos...the list can go on, I'm sure.
Since the floorplan for my fictional Consumer Health Information Center in Camden, NJ (that'd be the Springsteen Consumer Health Info Center) has not really been designed with a budget in mind, I took the liberty in being very creative with the space. I still based my decisions on what professors, colleagues, and the literature has been predicting about the future of libraries. Surrounded by a community garden (with a huge green house for the colder months), with a totally tech classroom, one floor of simply program space, meeting space, lounge area, ample computer space... even though the project is a dream, it's still exciting to give my fake library the space that those who visit it - and work for it - the space that they need!
I'll be sure to post the floorplan once it is complete. If this post has piqued your interest, leave a comment. Do you think new libraries are including the right spaces and innovations? Are there ways of easily and cheaply modifying old spaces? Did you just read a fab article about this? Let me know. I'm getting pretty into all this!