• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Beyond books

Cool, way cool:

Forget what you know about the library of the 20th century. You know, those dark places with clunky microform machines fossilizing in the basement and with rows of encyclopedias standing, perfectly alphabetized, in denial of their obsolescence.

Forget all of that: The library as a warehouse of information is an outdated concept. The library of the 21st century is a community workshop, a hub filled with the tools of the knowledge economy.

"If we can't shine in this environment, in this economy, shame on us," says Corinne Hill, the director of library system in Chattanooga, Tenn.—a system that has thoroughly migrated into the current era.

The library of the 21st century still has books, but it also has 3-D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and spaces for conducting business meetings. It offers computer coding classes. It has advanced video- and audio-production software. All things that might and individual may find too expensive but can still benefit from using.

Last year, the downtown Chattanooga public library cleared out its entire fourth floor—14,000 square feet of former storage space—and opened its floor plan for a community collaboration space. It's part public workshop, part technology petting zoo. But members of the community can also use the space to work on projects or try to launch a business.

Read the whole thing for a fascinating look into how a venerable institution can adapt to the times instead of becoming increasingly irrelevant by sticking to what it's always done. When everything we needed was in books, libraries provided all the books we needed but couldn't buy ourselves. Now that the world is moving beyond books, libraries have to as well. (The Allen County Public Library, in case you hadn't noticed, is doing pretty well at adapting, too.)