Last month, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) released a series of articles on the status of public libraries in the UK. The news is dramatic. More than 300 libraries have been closed since 2010—the reported total of 343 includes 132 mobile libraries, with over 100 more on the chopping block—and almost 8,000 jobs have been lost. The advocacy drumbeat for UK libraries has been sounding for some time, with prominent authors and celebrities offering their support. Staring down the numbers reported by the BBC has spurred a barrage of public and professional response—some reinforcing negative stereotypes and others helping to build the case for more investment.
At Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, users will soon have a novel means of consulting the catalog at the college’s Hugh Owen Library. Rather than typing their request, or asking a reference librarian, students can be led to the title they’re looking for by a robot with access to all of the library’s holdings.
On February 11, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hosted a discussion on “The Future of the Library” as part of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The award is given to a prominent artist in any field who embodies MIT’s commitment to risk-taking, problem solving, and connecting creative minds across disciplines.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (KF) kicked off the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Boston on the morning of January 10 with a session announcing its second News Challenge on Libraries. The challenge, which launches February 24, will address the question “How might libraries serve 21st century information needs?” Winners will receive a share of $3 million in funding toward their projects. In addition, a select number of projects will be considered for the Knight Prototype Fund.
As librarians are aware, today’s cultural and business environments are rapidly shifting—often in highly unpredictable and disruptive ways. In the past few years alone, physical has quickly given way to digital (including cloud and app-based solutions), classroom-based education to distance learning, and community development efforts targeted at engaging Millennials into initiatives aimed at connecting with Generation Z and beyond.Researchers at IBM have uncovered a telling reason why: In their words, continuous change is the new normal. (Having published these findings roughly half a decade ago, it’s now more normal than new.)
On June 11, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), in collaboration with the Congressional Maker Caucus, Maker Media, and Nation of Makers, hosted its first Capitol Hill Maker Faire, featuring a series of panel discussions and an expo open to the public, including members of Congress. Held in conjunction with this year’s National Maker Faire at the University of District of Columbia and the White House National Week of Making, June 12–18, these events indicate the growing interest in our nation’s capital in the Maker movement and its potential implications for education, workforce development, and community building.
It wasn’t your average ribbon-cutting ceremony. In place of the traditional ribbon, a length of ivy. Instead of an oversized pair of golden scissors, pruning shears, hedge trimmers, and garden loppers. And on September 26, 2014 (Johnny Appleseed Day), with a quick snip of the shears, The Shed at Arlington Public Library’s (APL) Central Branch, VA, packed with tools for planting and digging, weeding and cutting, raking and watering, was open for business. The business of borrowing, that is.
At a visit to Washington, DC’s Anacostia Neighborhood Library April 30, President Barack Obama announced two new initiatives that promise to rally America’s libraries, publishers, and nonprofit organizations to strengthen learning opportunities for all children, particularly in low-income communities. The plan, dubbed the ConnectED Library Challenge, will engage civic leaders, libraries, and schools to work together to ensure that all school students receive public library cards. Commitments from 30 library systems are already in place.
We talk a lot about resilience when we discuss library sustainability. It is one of the trends identified by Miguel Figueroa, an LJ 2005 Mover & Shaker, in the recent “Forecasting the Future of Libraries” report. It encompasses a broad swath of library work—dynamic programming, deep and robust community commitment to the well-being of the institution, and facility design that can withstand the very real threats of extreme weather change that comes with global warming. Resilience also means creating buildings that don’t drain precious natural resources.