content creation in libraries

When I recently did a presentation to my library’s board I spoke of the Big 3–the three things we need to step up to “futureproof” libraries: technology access (including electrical access for patrons to plug their devices into), social/civic engagement (from thirdspace planning to hosting civic conversations like the Four Freedoms forums at the Norman Rockwell Museum).  And the third thing libraries need to focus on is content creation.

From their reactions, I sensed that the trustees got the whole tech thing, and even were sort of on board with the social/civic engagement focus.  But when I got to content creation I swear I saw their eyes glaze over.  And why shouldn’t they?  Even people who are on the front lines of making great libraries can wonder why people making stuff together in the library could be important.

And it’s true that just because I believe that people making stuff together in spaces dedicated to the free transmission of ideas is going to save the world (or at least libraries) doesn’t mean everyone thinks so.  But I’ll just ignore those who don’t agree with me right now, and talk about those who do.

Bohyun looks at a post by Seth Godin (who as far as I can tell hasn’t stepped foot in a decent library in at least a decade, but who nevertheless sort of got this idea right, at least in the big picture if not the details)

In order to avoid extinction, libraries and librarians must change from being the middlemen and the warehouse of content…

Bohyun answered him with a call for ideas:

Libraries as TechShops?
Libraries as Production Agencies?
Libraries as Institutional or Regional Knowledge Management and Preservation Agencies?
Libraries as a Competitive Intelligence Center?

To accomplish any sort of retooling of the library to a content creation space, we need tools, teachers and SPACE to make stuff.  We need computers, 3d printers, audiovisual software & equipment, digitization tools for scanning books, photo editing tools, drawing tablets for computers, easels, sewing machines,microproccessor-building tools, jewelry pliers, soldering guns, workshop benches & stools, program spaces (from one-on-one to large groups), spaces for people to mentor each other, and a great, user-friendly system in place to make the creations available for the public.

But most of all we need people to understand that libraries–all libraries, not just public libraries–will be more about generating ideas than reading about those generated by others. And we need this “future” to be tomorrow. Literally. So I’ll see you at the computer privacy/safety class, stepping stone workshop, kanji graffiti party, actors workshop and/or Thai food class at the HPL in the next couple of weeks, right? And do you have a Makerbot lying around that you’d be willing to donate?

What content would you like to create at your library?

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