Advocating Innovation and Inspiring Change in the Library

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is more relevant than ever in the face of today’s economic circumstances as they relate to the library. Across the country, libraries, regardless of what population they serve have had to really think about how to serve their public differently and how their services remain relevant in this time of rapid technological and societal change. The ironic thing is that rather than crumble under all this pressure, libraries are beginning to re-emerge in forms that may have never taken shape under the status quo. Becoming a center that connects people, information, services and more has given rise to dynamic new technology centers that push the limits of services provided and community centers that link not just the residents but also the businesses and agencies that make up each community.

Recent visits to several Chicago-area libraries demonstrated that innovation can take a variety of forms. Technology is the most obvious, but we also discovered many other ways the library is innovating to better serve their customers and remain viable long into the future. It also brought to light that innovation is not always readily apparent on the surface, sometimes you need to look a little deeper to discover what activities are occurring and how they are impacting the users. All of these libraries have improved their organizations by carefully listening and observing the needs of the communities they serve and providing services and spaces that address those needs. What becomes apparent in these successful libraries is the level of activity and the excitement of those walking through the door.

Check out these innovative library examples:

Innovative Library: YouMedia – Chicago Public Library

Innovative Library: Ela Area Public Library, Lake Zurich, IL.

Innovative Library: Barrington Area Library, Barrington, IL.

Innovative Library: Poplar Creek Public Library.

Wrapping it all up:

While there are many libraries across the country already providing many of the spaces and services discussed here, there are also many who aren’t and are looking to others for ideas on how to move their libraries forward.  Hopefully some of the examples discussed here will provide food for thought regarding the possibilities for each library.  The most important thing to keep in mind is to listen to your customers and identify the opportunities that make the most sense for your community.

Often times developing partnerships or starting small allow solutions to be put forth with minimal investment other than a little ingenuity.  Other initiatives, particularly where technology is involved may take a little more investment and planning, but also may have opportunities from a grant standpoint or a local investor or donor.  Regardless, it is becoming perfectly clear that the library of the future will go far beyond books to become a place for content creation as well as content consumption and will continue to be the place where community connections are made.


Janet Nelson

Janet Nelson

Janet is the former Director of Library Engagement and Solutions at Demco. She managed and developed relationships with key industry leaders to understand changing library trends and services.