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What is the Library of the Future?

December 17, 2013

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

EDITOR’S NOTE:   The original blog included incorrect information in the third paragraph. This posting includes corrected information.  

I was intrigued by the results of the new study released this month by the Pew Center for the Internet in American Life. According to the study some 90 percent of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, 63 percent saying it would have a “major” impact. Asked about the personal impact of a public library closing, two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans said it would affect them and their families, including 29 percent who said it would have a major impact.

Moreover, the vast majority of Americans aged 16 and older say that public libraries play an important role in their communities with overwhelming majorities citing such important outcomes as “giving everyone a chance to succeed,” “promoting literacy and a love of reading,” “improving quality of life in community,” and “providing services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.”

The study also found people divided on whether the library's role is as important for them today as it was in the past. The most recent IMLS Public Library Survey recorded significant increases in library use over the past 20 years. Programs and attendance have increased, and circulation of materials is the highest ever reported.

Clearly the role of libraries is changing. At IMLS we see many examples of how libraries are working differently. Many more people are accessing library services remotely. Many more libraries are looking at community engagement strategies in new ways.

What role do you think the library of the future will play in making the “digital shift” and contributing to the success of individuals and the quality of life in communities?