Visioning Libraries: the 3rd Millennium

Libraries in the 21st Century have to be much, much more than the repositories for printed texts that their name suggests (the word derives from the Latin “liber” meaning “book”). Today, good public libraries are veritable social hubs offering access to information and engagement in popular culture and community. Libraries must continue to evolve to remain relevant in the current age of digital technologies and global communities.

President of the Friends of Libraries Association and the Australian Library and Information Association, Alan Bundy, explains:

“Public libraries are unique in their multidimensional responses to the needs of people of all ages, literally from ‘cradle to grave’. No other public agency has such a broad remit, challenge and opportunity.”

(Adult Learning Australia, 2013)

"Library warning poster" [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0] by Phil Bradley on Flickr

Library warning poster” [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0] by Phil Bradley on Flickr

The Next Horizon: Vision 2017 for Queensland public libraries is a rich, aspirational document which provides a summary of important attributes of 21st century public libraries and a forward-thinking, strategic vision for public library services over the next five years. The document outlines best practice under four key themes. “Engaging, sustainable, innovative 21st century public libraries” are:

  • Creative community spaces

  • Connectors – physical and virtual

  • Technology trendsetters

  • Incubators of ideas, learning and innovation.

(State Library of Queensland, 2013, CC BY 2.5)

Case Study: Council Library, Brisbane

A visit to a modern Brisbane City Council library brings these themes alive. Although eBooks can be accessed from the website and printed titles can be reserved for pickup from the “holds” shelf in any city library via the online library catalogue, a library visit in person has its own rich rewards. Our libraries offer patrons the use of digital tools such as computers and iPads, flexible spaces in which to collaborate, staff and services to facilitate  access to ideas and information and engagement in regular and diverse community activities such as book clubs, cultural displays, training and information sessions.

Children are always well catered for with special sections of the library space devoted to displays of children’s books, regular literary, music and craft activities, dramatic performances and school holiday programs (such as the events advertised in the fliers below). My older two children made library events at various city libraries a regular part of their school holiday breaks for years. Memorable experiences include: scrapbooking workshops, earring making, bead craft, a juggling show and cartooning workshops.

Event flyers from the Carindale library, Bri

Event flyers from the Carindale library, Brisbane. [Photo by the author]

The Carindale Library in Brisbane’s south-eastern suburbs exemplifies this 21C library evolution. The library was reopened at this site in May, 2012 after extensive renovations to the shopping centre where it is located. I took some photos (see Gallery below) during a recent visit with my four-year-old. He favours the Carindale library over the two other Council libraries in our area because of its children’s activity area which includes an interactive projection mat where the image projected onto the floor can be altered by a child moving through the space, a Duplo wall and comfortable reading “cubbies”.

Perhaps when he’s older he’ll make use of the XBox consoles and study areas. By then, I may be enjoying retirement with the leisure time to relax in the “news lounge” with its continually streaming TV news channel and multitude of newspapers and journals. Just a few of the ways this modern library caters for all ages, embraces popular culture, strives to remain relevant to its community and promote literacy in a connected, digital world.

Gallery: A Visit to Carindale Library

Click any image in the Gallery below to scroll through enlarged images as a slide show.

School Libraries: Translating the Vision?

Though school libraries focus on a more specific clientele, namely the students and staff at the school, the mandate for best practice in creating a library space which is engaging, sustainable and innovative cannot be diminished. How does my own school library meet the challenge to be a creative community space with physical and virtual connectors, trendsetting technology use and the incubation of ideas, learning and innovation…? How can I cater for all ages (staff, students, siblings, parents), all interests and all modes of working?

With his wealth of talent, wisdom and experience in creating agile learning spaces and the educational use of technologies, Professor Stephen Heppell has sound advice for any librarian (or teacher librarian) aspiring to answer this challenge. Check out the “Learning Places and Spaces” section of Heppell’s (by his own admission “rather chaotic”) website:

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 2.54.15 AM

Screenshot from “Learning Places and Spaces – virtual and actual” by Stephen Heppell [captured 29th September, 2013]


I’d love to hear of your memorable library experiences…

In what ways are popular culture and 21st century literacies embraced in your school or local library?


Featured image: Sign inside the entrance to the Carindale library (photograph by M. Mead)

Unless otherwise stated in the image caption, all images on this page (including the featured image and Gallery images) are by the author, M. Mead, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons License

Adult Learning Australia. (2013). For what are libraries, if not for learning?

State Library of Queensland. (2013). The Next Horizon: Vision 2017 for Queensland public libraries


2 thoughts on “21C Libraries: bigger than books

  1. My memorable library experience was of a most terrifying place of silence ruled over by Mrs Hunter, a woman with a bun of steel, a glare that would kill and a collection of not to be touched classic tomes behind glass! However, move on about 40 years and thankfully things have changed. I often take my 19 year old son and my 77 year old father to the library at Indooroopilly of Kenmore..what brilliant spaces! Something for everyone! My school library is another brilliantly collaborative, active, sharing space with girls able to read, watch, draw, interact, get on the soap box, make puppet plays, lounge on comfy chairs, make videos (and I suspect, escape from the mid day heat!) I think a lot of this wonderful work is due to the innovative work of our two librarians! One has a great blog you might want to check out http://childrensbooksdaily.com/

  2. Thanks for the tip, Cathy, I will certainly check out that TL blog.
    Alan Bundy writes and presents often about the role of libraries in community and the statistics on their funding are absolutely amazing. What Queensland libraries can achieve on a very minimal budget is truly incredible. They do a fabulous job to promote literacy and foster thriving, creative communities.

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