June 28, 2008

Tonight’s party is hosted by your local public library.

When I was studying at Georgetown University, our euphemism for going to the library to study was to go out to party at Club Lauinger.” Sure, we were being facetious at the time, but in light of the changing role of the library and the librarian, I think that statement may not be far from the truth.

I only have one core message today, so I’ll keep today’s post short.

The library needs to go from a place where you access collections to a place where you access connections.

Sure, there is immense value in housing books and videos in one big building, and then letting people browse that physical media when they are in the building. There is, however, more value in letting those buildings be places where people connect with people, rather than simply the books and other titles.

The library should be a place where I can have a coffee and conversation with people who are engaging with the same ideas — and subsequently, same titles from the collection — as me. It should be a place where conversation is encouraged and not shushed, where debate flourishes, where innovation happens.

Having a meeting for a small community group? Have it at the library. Looking for someone that knows something about cooking Thai food? Meet them at the kitchen in the library. Having a wine and cheese reception for your local design awards? Have it in the foyer at the library.

Once the library opens up and starts allowing people to use it in multiple ways rather than just being a repository of information, it becomes a focal point of your community. So push the shelves aside, and start creating spaces for collaboration and creativity.