National Edition

How libraries are adapting to stay relevant

Published: Tuesday, March 11 2014 7:30 p.m. MDT

Libraries throughout the country are taking innovative steps, including adding digital labs, game rooms, and children and teen centers.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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Many libraries throughout the country are no longer repositories for dusty stacks of books. Instead, libraries are taking innovative steps to keep pace with technological changes and provide more welcoming environments for visitors.

The Boston Public Library, which is undergoing renovation, will feature a high-stool bar overlooking the street where patrons can bring their laptops; a section for teens that will include digital labs, game rooms, lounges, restaurant booths and equipment and software to produce comic books and record music; and a retail space, according to The New York Times.

William L. Rawn III, whose architectural firm is overseeing the Boston Public Library's renovations, desires to make the library more open and "get the energy of the city into the library and the energy of the library out to the city," the New York Times reported.

The Wauconda Area Library in Illinois is also remodeling and disposing of old library mainstays, such as circulation and reference desks, per The Chicago Tribune. The updated library will include a redesigned children's area with additional computers, white board doodling area and a gaming area.

"It's a transformative renovation to incorporate more technology in the children's department and provide more engaging, participatory learning experiences," Jan Staudemeyer, leader of the children's services department, told the Tribune.

"There are really a lot of components targeting preschool, primary grades and intermediate grades. That target is to benefit the whole community," Staudemeyer said. "There are things targeted to children and teens, and then expanded resources and facilities for adults and seniors. It's really looking at the entire service population. This is really going to be tremendously transformative."

These libraries' inventive efforts may please patrons, but Christopher John Farley wrote in a Wall Street Journal article that librarians also need to become innovative so libraries do not "become casualties of the Internet age." He believes librarians should help patrons sort through digital technology. He also contends that librarians should not completely eliminate books.

"Libraries of the future shouldn’t be bookless because, like endangered species, the nondigitized physical texts of the past and the ones that are still being printed, need a protected space," Farley said.

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