Today is National Libraries Day. In Bristol, my local city library is organising speakers, musicians and installations to celebrate the day. But after years of funding cuts, closures and declining usage due to the rise of the internet, what is the future of the library? – does it even have one?
I would answer a most emphatic yes, it most definitely does: but some things need to change. Based on responses from over 2,000 people, a 2013 research report from the Arts Council England found that public libraries are seen as “trusted spaces, open to all, in which people continue to explore and share the joys of reading, information, knowledge and culture”. In an increasingly digital world such a physical space seems worth preserving, yet between 2007 and 2012 the number of visits to public libraries dropped by nearly 7% . However, while we might not visit libraries as often as we used to, the thought that they might no longer exist seems impossible – with communities protesting nationwide as council after council announces new closures or cuts in response to increasingly tight budgets.
But what if this isn’t the end for the public library? What if all it needs is a bit of re-imagining? Here’s my starter for ten….
10 ideas to reinvent the library
- Embrace the digital: Libraries currently pivot around an outdated model of lending physical books in a world where digital access offers unrivalled convenience. ‘E-loans’ and digitised archive content needs to move from a periphery experiment to a core service.