What can academic libraries offer that no other place on a college campus is offering? Rethinking the traditional role of the library and offering unique experiences to patrons can ensure that libraries remain relevant. Libraries may find it worthwhile to ask students what they feel is missing from their colleges and then work to fill that gap. Libraries can stay popular by creating the space and tools to help students work on projects in ways that aren’t available elsewhere. If Academic Libraries can successfully do this, they will remain at the center of college campuses.
A lesson from American Malls:
Malls have had to ask the same questions that libraries are now asking. What can we do to bring people through the doors? What might we do to remain viable? With online shopping becoming more and more popular, people have been going to malls less to shop. Mall owners have had to rethink their purpose and the experience they provide to customers. Some malls in America are trying to give families an experience they can’t get online. Malls are giving customers a hands-on experience that they would never be able to get from online shopping. Malls are offering cooking classes and pottery classes. People go to the mall, not just to shop, but to do something and make something. Malls are opening up sit-down restaurants, not just food courts, to give people an experience they can’t get from their own living rooms.
How Libraries Can Offer Unique Experiences:
The Designing Better Libraries Blog argues that libraries should and are doing the same thing that forward thinking shopping malls are doing. Libraries should be thinking about how to offer patrons a unique experience that they can’t receive anywhere else. It’s easier than ever to do research from home or even on a mobile device. As library websites evolve, so does the ability to borrow books on an ereader without ever having to step in a library. So what will bring people into the library? One of the new library functions being discussed on The Designing Better Libraries blog is the role of the library as a site where people can create things. Some public libraries are already creating environments that support patrons in their creative endeavors. The TekVenture maker station in Indiana has partnered with the Allen County Public Library to give people tools, mentors and a space to build inventions they have imagined. The TekVenture maker station, located in a 50ft mobile classroom, provides anyone interested with tools and technology to work on personal projects and also facilitates discussion with other inventors. By partnering with TekVenture, the library is helping provide people with the tools they need to make something that they can’t easily make anywhere else. Malls have figured out how to continue to appeal to Americans and public libraries are also discovering ways to offer patrons interesting opportunities. Now it’s time for academic libraries to follow suit and offer students and faculty an unparalleled experience.
Image: Make Controller RSS Reader (via Flickr).