The Future of 21st Century Libraries: The Series Begins

Image by Daniel Jensen

The experiences people have in libraries around the world changes their lives.

The purpose of libraries has never changed, however they have always been at the cutting edge of information technology. Always bringing new ways of gathering, sharing, and learning from information.

Libraries were predicted to be extinct by now with the age of information always growing. Even during the Great Recession when funds were cut, hours were cut, staff were cut, a few libraries closed, all just when people needed library resources the most predictions of extinction continued. However libraries thrived at giving the resources needed to our communities and now are rebounding stronger than ever with more services, programs, resources, and ways of learning than ever before.

In the past two decades libraries have made some significant changes as technology and society have evolved.

Librarians have moved from being seekers and finders of information to being filters in the overwhelming world of information overload. Filtering out the irrelevant in search of the right and applicable information.

Library’s have become community gathering centers for those without access to technology. They also serve as community gathering centers for those looking to escape the loneliness and isolation technology can bring.

Library’s have become a place that recognizes that we all learn differently, reader learners, listener learners, and maker learners. The maker movement started with libraries recognizing the needs of their communities and providing a place where knowledge application is just as important as knowledge acquisition.

“What we really want to build are compelling, challenging, and inspiring environments where members feel comfortable to risk and reach” (Lankes, David; The Atlas of New Librarianship, pg 78)

Some libraries are just in the process of transforming into 21st Century Libraries. Others are well into the cutting edge of where libraries are taking us that give a glimpse into the third decade of 21st Century Library Design.

Take for example the Free Library of Philadelphia where food and learning create a nexus of learning.

“The Culinary Literacy Center is revolutionizing the way Philadelphians think about food, nutrition, and literacy. It aims to advance literacy in Philadelphia in a unique and innovative way — with a fork and spoon. The Culinary Literacy Center is a commercial-grade kitchen that serves as a classroom and dining space for Philadelphians. We are more than just a cooking school. Teachers can bring students to our hands-on lab, where we teach math via measuring, reading via recipes, and science via seeing what pops out at the end of the cooking process. Chefs of all ages can experiment with new foods, new tools, and new ideas.” (

There are those who believe that many of these transformations are trends that will go just as they have come but they fail to see that this is just the beginning of something much larger. A change that coincides with the societal changes that are underway. The combination of the rise of the creative class and technological advancements will keep libraries changing and adapting for the third decade of this new millennium and beyond.

I have been working for some time on a 13 part series that peers into where libraries are going and provides a roadmap for libraries everywhere to successfully prepare and navigate the waters of library excellence in changing lives.

I will be releasing on both Medium and my blog, one of these each week for 13 weeks. Please share and follow so that you and your colleagues don’t miss this important series on the Future of the 21st Century Library as it looks at the impact libraries will have on economic development and how great cities will have libraries at the core of their cultural districts. What’s more it will provide a new model for libraries to do what they do best in new and unique ways. That will build on the maker movement in unimaginable ways. It will also include several downloadable guides to help you navigate economic, political, and the public waters of building support to really make things happen. Last, but not least it will provide insight into how library design must make accommodations now while planning for the future. Libraries must start planning now for what is sure to come.

To follow this series or to learn more about what each of the 13 written episodes will reveal click on this link to download “The Future of 21st Century Libraries: The Series Begins”