The American Library Association touts itself as “the oldest and largest library association in the world.” True or not, the association’s annual conference is something to behold.
The 2013 ALA annual conference was held late last month in Chicago, which also happens to be the home of the association’s headquarters. More than 26,000 librarians from public, academic, school and corporate libraries converged on the McCormick Place Convention Center and numerous hotels throughout the city to do committee work, attend programs and discuss the future of libraries in their communities.
They went to visit libraries as well, and Chicago certainly has a library worth seeing.
The Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago’s main library, is reminiscent of the Puyallup Public Library in that it maintains the stately grandeur of the libraries of the past but is completely modern inside. It’s an impressive structure, but as with all libraries, what really matters is the way it can facilitate connections between people and information.
The Chicago Public Library often has led the way in terms of programs that foster connections between the library and the community. While Seattle can lay claim as the first municipality to have a “One Community, One Book” reading program (“The Sweet Hereafter” by Russell Banks in 1998), Chicago put “One Book” programs on the map nationally with its fall 2001 program that highlighted “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
The Chicago Public Library’s efforts to promote reading merited a letter from the reclusive Harper Lee herself. Its program has gained traction and inspired dozens of similar programs across the country where communities ask the question, “What if everyone read the same book?” and receive an answer in a way that builds understanding and cooperation in the midst of diversity.
You’ll hear more about our community sharing a book together next month as our first Literary Festival gets closer in September.
Another way the Chicago Public Library is bringing the community together is through its unique YOUmedia center, a creative learning and activity space for teens. It’s a space that librarians around the country are scrambling to replicate.
YOUmedia is at the forefront of a movement to create library spaces that are designed, as stated on the YOUmedia website, “to inspire collaboration and creativity.” It’s a space where teens can create and record music, make and edit movies, record podcasts, edit photos and almost anything else you might think of in terms of innovative uses of technology.
And, yes, there are books there, too.
The foundational idea of the space is a powerful one: A space like YOUmedia boldly declares libraries are not just places to find information or borrow materials. They are now places for the community to think, experiment and create.
Now, libraries don’t simply disseminate books and information, they can actively create new information. Libraries can be publishers, printing books of local interest or by local authors.
And those spaces don’t have to be just for teens. A technology lab in the library can give everyone access to collaborative tools and technology.
Let me know if this is something that you would like to see at the Puyallup Public Library. If we had a space like this, what things would you want to be able do in it? What technology would you want? A 3D printer? The ability to print books on demand? Would you like to lay down tracks in a music recording studio or make and edit videos?
I’d love to hear from you. Right now, it’s just a dream, but getting your input is the first step to make it a reality.Tim Wadham is the director of the Puyallup Public Library. He can be reached at 253-841-5452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.