Is the Public Library a Dinosaur Needing a Coworking Makeover?
Throughout history, when a society progresses, that society’s technology tends to change with it, and today, in America, it’s no different. Technology is always rapidly advancing and we are always racing to keep up. Some places move faster than others, large cities like New York and San Francisco are beginning to look like settings from science fiction movies. However, not so long ago we were still relying on places like the public library for access to information. Now that the world is at our fingertips, the need for shelves full of outdated books and dusty, chunky computers is no longer present. Still, many people are afraid of us moving too fast into the future; what should we do about these old, unused spaces that still hold a strong potential for use? Is it possible to breathe life back into dwindling space like public libraries?
A New Option
Depending on where you’re from, the idea of coworking spaces might be one you know well or one you are completely foreign to. Many big cities have had them for years, and other growing cities are following in their footsteps. The concept of coworking spaces is that they provide a place to work for various different workers; these spaces are typically available to anyone from a single person to a whole company. Many of these spaces offer a diverse amount of working environments—single desks, conference rooms, quiet offices, tables, and more—further opening them up to anyone’s use. Interestingly enough, this concept is not far off from the concept of the public library; so why have we abandoned the use of public libraries? Could they truly benefit from a makeover?
What Makes Coworking Spaces Different?
When you step into a coworking space for the first time you can feel the difference in the atmosphere. It doesn’t feel stiff and quiet like libraries or traditional offices, but it’s not noisy or crowded like cafés or even your own home can be. Coworking spaces tend to have a positive and productive atmosphere. At a coworking space or office, everyone is there to accomplish the same goalーhowever different their tasks may beーto get work done. Although when you work in a traditional office you are surrounded by coworkers also focused on their work and tasks, coworking spaces are often more successful in creating a communitive environment because of their focus on collaboration. It isn’t hard to meet and connect with many different types of people in a coworking space, especially due to their accessibility. Environment is a very important contributor in productivity and coworking spaces offer a great environment for workers.
What Does All This Mean?
So, why are coworking spaces important to the deterioration of public libraries? I’ve already pointed out the similarities they share, but what if using the idea of coworking spaces to upscale libraries could save them? Abandoning the stiff, quiet, and outdated atmosphere for a modern look, comfortable seats, lots of tables, and a coffee machine could breathe life back into libraries. Even adding bigger spaces for more education opportunities could really benefit libraries and bring more attention back to them. After school classes for kids, like coding, creative writing, and even tutoring could be offered at libraries. Colorful carpets and creative, playful but functional furniture may be the change that draws kids and parents alike back to the library. A pirate ship or space rocket with seats inside and hidden bookshelves wouldn’t fail to attract the attention of children, even giving a new charm to reading and learning; after all, who wouldn’t want to do their homework while sailing the seven seas?
On top of the general public opinion that the library is a boring place to be, it is undeniable that very few people go to the library anymore because information is far easier to access than it used to be. There isn’t a need for a place with outdated books when you could look something up or order a book to your house overnight. However, shifting the purpose of public libraries from that of a place to get books to a place where you can study, work, or learn could make them much more appealing. Even with the world opening back up, many businesses are still keeping their employees at home. And now that it’s safer, schools are going back in session. People still need places to work. A functional and comfortable library inspired by coworking spaces could be the exact thing that makes the library a popular destination just like it was many years ago.