Libraries have long provided the link between people and technology. Sometimes it is a matter of access, sometimes instruction, and sometimes discovery. Yesterday the library system I work for launched its first idea lab. This lab is a perfect illustration of how a library can be a connection point between a community and technology and be a place for access, instruction, and discovery all at one time.
Imagine a brightly lit area inside a gorgeous library with three distinct zones for patrons to explore. There is an information desk staffed with either knowledgeable tech-savvy volunteers or staff where users may check out gadgets for use inside and outside of the library. Tablet computers, eReaders, iPod Touches, digital cameras, and Macbook Airs are now available along with a constantly changing spreadsheet of ideas for future purchases. Questions can be answered at the information desk utilizing one of the tablets, a pc, or a mac all in close proximity to the checkout station. The computer lab zone includes a combination of iMacs and brand new pcs available for use by anyone. In this open lab there is a large flat screen tv which can be utilized for demonstration purposes, to promote upcoming activities, or for class instruction. The third area is a studio complete with an iMac and a PC loaded with the newest version of Adobe Creative Suite, dual monitors, a portable light kit, a green screen, microphones, webcams, and a scanner.
This truly impressive space was made possible with district funds from a very supportive Commissioner. For it to grow and become self-sustaining, however, it will have to remain a very busy center known all throughout the county as THE place for people to come to in order to increase their digital literacy skills. This is a tall order for a library system with limited funds, but if the support shown by the community at yesterday’s grand opening event is any indication – the community is ready and willing to make this idea lab their go-to source for innovative technology.
Interacting with residents yesterday and being able to feel their excitement about the possibilities that exist for this lab to improve their individual lives was a very rewarding experience. I spoke with residents who had technology program ideas and fielded specific questions people had with their own digital devices. Most rewarding of all was watching a group of volunteers and staff come together to show what a library could really offer when it comes to the topic of digital literacy.