Despite their changes, higher education libraries remain a vital part of campus, in part because notions of what a library can be are always evolving, says Joan Lippincott, associate executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information. She points to several roles that colleges and universities have developed within their new and renovated libraries:
- Multimedia equipment lab: Many students come to campus conversant in social media, but lacking deep knowledge of how to produce a website, podcast or video. Libraries can bridge the gap with workshops and one-on-one consultations.
- Art gallery: Digital displays and large-scale academic posters of students’ work can find a home on library walls.
- Makerspaces: “The university’s engineering school may have an incredible makerspace, but generally it would only be available to engineering students,” says Lippincott. By locating a makerspace in the library, universities bring cutting-edge technologies to every student on campus.
- Innovation and entrepreneurship incubator: “Students can come and work in small groups on developing company and product ideas,” says Lippincott. Sometimes, these spaces incorporate makerspace technologies that assist in the rapid iteration of product designs.
- Data lab: Large screens and digital displays let students work collaboratively with large data sets and build skills in data visualization.