Library budgets might be shrinking, but digital libraries like this one are on the rise.
Can you imagine spending a day without going online?
According to Pew Research, 84% of American adults use the internet daily. And while most people have access to the internet at home, many others rely on libraries to get connected.
That’s why “libraries without books” are slowly on the rise all over the country.
Book-less libraries, which are all about online resources, have been popping up all over the country in the past year, as many traditional libraries are forced to close their doors.
And while the lack of hardback books in the libraries might feel weird, this new model could be the best way to keep libraries open. Book-less libraries can offer e-books and a whole lot more: teaching surrounding communities tech skills and offering access to the web and to amazing digital tools too.
Take Do Space, for example, a nonprofit community center located in Omaha, Nebraska.
Do Space is a “modern library,” offering a super unique take on the digital library idea. In Do Space, desktop workstations are equipped with software for the Adobe Creative Suite and 3D modeling. The library also has advanced equipment, like 3D and laser printers. All its services and programs are available free of charge.
When you first walk into Do Space, you won’t find any physical books.
However, you’ll find a welcome desk, a computer lab equipped with 56 computers, private conference rooms, a tech support/printing station, comfy lounge chairs, and of course, free wireless internet throughout the entire building. You might even spot a child playing with a robot operated by an iPad.
“We do have a distinct digital divide in Omaha,” Executive Director of Do Space, Rebecca Stavick said.
When she worked at an Omaha Public Library Branch, Stavick recalls people waiting for nearly an hour for a computer during peak times. “It’s really tough when you don’t have one at home and that’s your only access point,” Stavick adds.
Do Space’s services are all free and open to the public, as they believe digital resources should be available to everyone.
Although membership is required to register for events and workshops, that membership is also free.
At Do Space, the young learner classes teach children how to build their own inventions using technology provided by the center. The space also hosts weekly meet-ups for artists, game developers, and professionals.
As an example of their monthly programming, in June 2016, other free programs are based around digital eyewear, computer-programming for beginners, and laser-cut jewelry. Programs are designed for different age groups, from babies to seniors. The Big Littles Lab even invites children between 6 and 8 years old to participate.
Integrating digital technologies into programming might be one of the best ways to keep libraries alive.
And research backs that up too. Pew Research reports that many Americans want their libraries to embrace new technologies, particularly high-tech gadgetry.
And although Do Space’s partnership with a local community college is particularly unique, components of the center can be seen in other parts of the country. Bibliotech, in San Antonio, provides 10,000 e-books pre-uploaded onto 600 e-readers, proving you don’t have to sacrifice literature to run a book-less library.
Florida Polytechnic University opened a pristine campus library without a single book in 2014. Instead, the space offers comfortable reading chairs and tons of digital resources, as well as a "reference success" desk with staff.
And there's a preparatory school outside the Boston metro area that transitioned away from a 20,000-volume library in 2009, moving toward a learning center with no books at all.
While Do Space is bragworthy for the Silicon Prairie, it could soon inspire other libraries to adapt to the digital age too.
And when it comes to saving our libraries, that's a pretty great place to start.