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Tech Centers Are Coming to a Library Near You!

by on January 10, 2016

The article “Will A Nebraska Community Tech Center Force Us To Consider Libraries Without Books?” asks the same typical question that libraries have been hearing for the past fifteen years. The answer is no, public libraries will not be removing all their books from their spaces to accommodate for technology. What we’re seeing, however, is an increase in community partnerships, makerspaces/labs, public interest for technology programs, and technology help from libraries. And the Do Space in Omaha, Nebraska is another aspect of what is a part of the future for libraries; although the Omaha Public Library doesn’t have the space or money to do what Do Space can, they are affiliated with the tech center and encourage their patrons to use it. They provide their digital resources and databases through the center, which people can access with their library card. Do Space, like the OPL, is free to use and provides separate spaces for kids, teens, and adults to play around with technology and sign up for classes like 3D printing and laser cutting. The space is funded by local donors and, the article stresses, is “‘responding to an equity gap’ in the availability of technology to thousands of area residents.”

The tech center, since officially opening on November 7, 2015, has seen over 15,000 visitors, with over 800 people attending programs and events. On the Do Space’s blog, the Executive Director, Rebecca Stavick, writes that she hopes that the space will inspire Omahans to feel “empowered to lead the nation in innovation.” It’s actually a part of their Vision Statement: “Do Space, as the heart of a community technology movement, inspires Omaha to lead the nation in innovation.” Appropriately, Rebecca Stavick previously worked for five years as a Staff Development Specialist at OPL and in her free time on Open Nebraska, an organization she cofounded that focuses on technology education and emphasizes open access; it will also be partnering with the tech center in the future.  It seems like Do Space is a perfect marriage of Stavick’s two previous roles, and she is the perfect liaison to bring both the OPL and Open Nebraska on board as community partners.

John B. Horrigan, in Libraries at a Crossroads, points out that there are “some 30% of those ages 16 and over [that] think libraries should “definitely” move some print books and stacks out of public locations to free up more space for such things as tech centers, reading rooms, meeting rooms and cultural events; 40% say libraries should “maybe” do that; and 25% say libraries should “definitely not” do that.” So how can other libraries develop either an affiliation with a center like this or create one within their own space if possible? The important elements for public libraries to take note of in Do Space are the community partnerships that lead to the space developing and going from just an idea to fruition. YOUmedia and the Maker Lab at Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago, for example, are both grant-funded and offer technology programs as well as equipment to mess around with. They partnered with groups like the Digital Youth Network  and the MacArthur Foundation as well as Motorola and the City of Chicago in order to develop spaces for teens and adults to tinker, learn, and grow in, and it’s free to use just like Do Space. Public libraries need to continue to work towards empowering their patrons to develop their information and digital literacy skills, and sometimes reaching out to the community at large can make something really special happen!


Sources:

Horrigan, John B. “Libraries at the Crossroads.” Report by the Pew Research Center, 15 September 2015. Web. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/09/15/libraries-at-the-crossroads/. Accessed 7 January 2016.

Kelly, Bill. “Will A Nebraska Community Tech Center Force Us To Consider Libraries Without Books?” NET, November 30, 2015. Web. http://netnebraska.org/article/news/1001826/will-nebraska-community-tech-center-force-us-consider-libraries-without-books. Accessed 7 January 2016.

Peet, Lisa. “Rebecca Stavick, Omaha’s First Digital Librarian.” Library Journal, April 27, 2015. Web. http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/04/people/rebecca-stavick-omahas-first-digital-librarian/. Accessed 7 January 2016.


Resources:

http://www.dospace.org/space

http://omahalibrary.org/

http://www.chipublib.org/maker-lab/

http://www.chipublib.org/youmedia/

http://digitalyouthnetwork.org/

https://www.macfound.org/


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