Libraries: A Campus Linchpin
BY DR. LARRY THOMPSON
Reposted from SRQ Daily article on 1/28/17
Since the beginning of humankind, we have shared stories. At first this happened through word of mouth, passing down our experiences to our kin, and then later through the written word. As literacy became the foundation of our society, writers took up their pens, and the printing press was invented, libraries were born to house the resulting stories and information for posterity.
Inevitably, newer and more efficient systems became the norm as the various revolutions, including the latest digital revolution, put the answers to every conceivable question (literally) at our fingertips. Which begs the question: With the ever-presence of the internet, what is the role of libraries in today’s society?
Ringling College of Art and Design this month opened the doors to a new, 46,000-square-foot “library of the future.” Over 200 students, faculty, and staff lined up from our previous library, the Verman Kimbrough Memorial Library, to the new Alfred R. Goldstein Library to pass 200 books in a ceremonial nod to our newest facility. The doors were then opened for students to go in and explore. Since that day, the students—millennials who were raised in front of screens of every size—have been excitedly exploring all of the nooks and crannies and bells and whistles that comprise their new library. Far beyond the impressive book and periodical collections of 65,000 volumes is the space dedicated to collaboration and brainstorming—essentially to “working out loud.” And, yes, working out loud means the former shushing that occurred in libraries is not happening in this one.
And this will be the role of the library on our campus and in our community. Yes, students and faculty can always ask Google or Alexa or Siri anything they want from any device anywhere. But this will be a space where they can work together, come together, research together and create together. And stumble upon a book or periodical they didn’t even think to look for. Or explore in depth a subject in a way Siri cannot possibly answer.
Through the progress of technology, millennials have come to expect and enjoy customized experiences from the brands and services they use. They want control over their user experience—from suggested playlists on Spotify to Coca-Cola labels that actually have their names on them. Taking that into consideration, we have to understand that libraries can no longer fall into the one-size-fits-all trap.
In the spirit of building a truly progressive library, we dedicated two floors to providing rooms and facilities in which users can move things around to create their optimal working conditions. They can talk to each other. And for those who want quiet time—well they have a glass enclosed third floor to keep out noise, filled with comfy chairs, a breathtaking terrace and quiet nooks. So this new library of the future now serves as not only an intellectual resource, it is also a student center, a student union if you will. I call it an “Intellectual Student Union.” What a concept. I wish my college library was like that.
We will always be introduced to newer, faster, more convenient ways of accessing information. But as a society, we need places to bring our ideas together and explore. This is the new and very old role of a library—and I look forward to the creativity that this facility will inspire on our campus.